Marijuana Prohibition Proponents Now Have A Super-Pac

Proponents of cannabis legalization in the US will now face a new obstacle to their end goal as a result of a new political action committee (or PAC) formed with the goal of undermining their progress.

While PACs have existed in the American political system for decades,  Super-PACs are a more recent phenomenon. Established after the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Super PACs allow individuals, labour unions, corporations and other politically motivated entities to donate limitless sums of cash to the entity for the purpose of forwarding the shared goal of the Super PAC and its funders. Note that Super PACs never donate directly to candidates, only engage in various political activities (such as, but not limited to, advertising) on behalf of the funders.

https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/filing-pac-reports/registering-super-pac/

Though I can think of many private and corporate entities that would benefit from the current status quo, one benefit of Super Pacs is that their donors are not hidden from view. So you will know if Big Alcohol or Big Pharma are chipping into this PACs coffers. However, the same can not be said for 501c entities.

Basically, Super PACs can accept any amount of cash from any entity, but all donors are transparent publicly. As for 501c’s, they can also accept an unlimited amount of cash from any entity, but they are not obligated to transparency in terms of their donors. They also can not exist primarily for the purpose of pursuing political interests. This is why I assume they are often paired with Super PACs (PACs do the political heavy lifting, 501Cs facilitate it by collecting the cash quietly).

But that is both off-topic and not even necessarily related. However, it’s a handy guidebook as to why many things are the way they are in the US political system. Ever wonder why seemingly every right-leaning no one in the American political sphere has a radio show or podcast?

Wonder no more.

Anyway, speaking of looking backwards, let’s get to the article ( written by Kyle Jaeger and published by Marijuana Moment). 

 

New Marijuana Prohibition Super PAC Targets Pro-Legalization GOP Congresswoman, Among Other Races

A top executive of the national prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM) is launching a new political action committee (PAC), targeting pro-legalization candidates and supporting those who oppose the policy in key races. And one of the super PAC’s first targets is a freshman GOP congresswoman who is sponsoring her own bill to federally legalize and regulate cannabis.

Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of SAM and CEO of the newly established Protect Our Kids PAC, told Marijuana Moment that he decided to branch out to create the committee in order to “give more political power to families and children, who want elected representatives in office who will put their health and safety first over industries looking to profit from drug legalization.”

New Marijuana Prohibition Super PAC Targets Pro-Legalization GOP Congresswoman, Among Other Races


Of course, a Super PAC aimed at enabling underground drug dealers and suppliers by keeping their market share uncontested for even longer would be marketed with the message that is “Will someone PLEASE think of the children!”. The natural way to ensure that minors don’t get their hands on cannabis is OBVIOUSLY to ensure that the suppliers that don’t care about age keep on serving the market.

Because, duh.

Also, Smart Approaches to Marijuana reminds me of an organization I came across in the past. Headed by Kevin Sebat, the man on a crusade against cannabis legalization now despite seemingly overlooking the American opioid crisis when he was in an appointed white house position to make a difference to the situation. Could it be?

Leadership

The following individuals hold leadership positions with Smart Approaches to Marijuana:[16]

  • Kevin A. Sabet, President and CEO
  • Luke Niforatos, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor
  • Abu Edwards, Director of State Affairs
  • Dana Stevens, Director of Local Affairs
  • Garth Van Meter, “Vice President of Government Affairs
  • Brendan Fairfield, “Director of Business Development

https://ballotpedia.org/Smart_Approaches_to_Marijuana

 

I knew I recognized the distinctly familiar stench of this particular brand of stupid. And also from the same source, check out this unexpectedly relevant piece of information.

 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization describes its mission as “promot[ing] health-first, smart policies and attitudes that decrease marijuana use and its consequences.” The group opposes non-medical marijuana legalization efforts, including state-level ballot initiatives that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana at the state level.[1]


Remember what we learned about Super PACs VS 501c’s?  Looks like the SAM leadership was sick of the drawbacks of sick of drawbacks of the 501c(3) as well.

 

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is among the PAC’s first targets. It plans to put tens of thousands of dollars behind a campaign to specifically unseat the congresswoman, who made headlines after introducing a GOP-led bill to end cannabis prohibition late last year.

Asked why the PAC is starting by zeroing in on Mace, rather than other more longstanding pro-legalization lawmakers up for reelection, Niforatos said that the congresswoman “has become the face of marijuana legalization for the Republican party,” and accused her of being “a lackey for Altria Phillip Morris, the largest tobacco company in America which is bankrolling marijuana legalization.”

“Her constituents do not support commercializing marijuana, yet an inordinate amount of her time is spent stumping for the policy,” he claimed. “Legalization of marijuana has hurt kids, families, and caused large health harms in states that have passed such policies. It’s time to hold her accountable.”


The first question that occurs to me is where on earth is SAM (or rather, Protect Our Kids) getting tens of thousands of dollars in order to fling all of this mud at a congresswoman?

It’s possible that individual donors could be responsible. But I seriously question that given the public support for legal cannabis. However, this is just an assumption.

We can, however, look into the claim of this congresswoman being a quote lackey for Altria Philip Morris. Did she accept donations from the company?

According to the following link,  not that I can see. Though it’s possible that it was hidden through a 501c/Super PAC combination, I can’t see any cannabis-related donors.

https://www.opensecrets.org/races/contributors?cycle=2020&id=SC01&spec=N

Since this is the case, I think it’s time for Luke Niforatos of SAM to put up or shut up. Where is your evidence?

Evidence that SAM isn’t also bought off by corporate financiers would also be nice, but I won’t play that game. That would make me no better than SAM.

 

Mace countered the attack, telling Marijuana Moment that polling she has conducted of her constituents shows that “two out of every three Republican Primary voters in our district agree that states should have the right to decide their own cannabis laws, and that’s exactly what the States Reform Act (SRA) does.”

“It protects the rights of states to decide for themselves,” the congresswoman said. “It’s the basic premise of federalism, also a conservative principle.”


While I don’t think that cannabis law should be a states rights issue given all that is at stake (the livelihood and reputation of literally millions of people), that is not the topic at hand. The prohibitionists at SAM claim that her constituents are not interested, she counters with the reality of the situation. So the natural next step is . . . Super PAC funded political propaganda.

Social media ads attacking Mace over the cannabis issue are already rolling out. Like this one, leaning into concerns about marijuana products that some worry would appeal to children:

And this one playing into fears about increased traffic fatalities following legalization, even though data is mixed on the association.

Kevin Sabet is like Cole from The Sixth Sense. He sees dead people everywhere!

Well, except for all of these that overdosed on opioids on his watch as that crisis unfolded unabated throughout the 90s and into the 2000s. 

 

In February, Mace’s Republican primary challenger Katie Arrington criticized the incumbent’s focus on marijuana legalization in a campaign ad, saying, “Is Nancy Mace high?”

Separately, Mace and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) filed a resolution this month imploring President Joe Biden to wield his influence to get the United Nations to end the international ban on marijuana by removing the plant from the list of controlled substances in a global drug treaty.

In any case, Mace won’t be the new PAC’s only target. With what Niforatos said is six-figures of funding that the committee will soon be reporting to the FEC, they will be tackling “6-12 races this cycle, focusing on House races as well as state-level races.”

 

Lovely. I can’t wait to see the other dog shit these assholes produce.

 

That includes launching ads in “some key races in the next few weeks” and supporting Colorado House candidate Yardira Caraveo’s primary race because she sponsored legislation to “overhaul” the state’s cannabis program last year. It will also back “one other Colorado Republican in a close race,” he said.

“The slate we are endorsing (which will grow) is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, and this bi-partisan nature will continue. We will support and attack the same numbers of both parties,” Niforatos said. “We believe good drug policy that protects families and kids is bipartisan, and it should stay that way.”


I can’t fault them for holding everyone accountable. After all, keeping street-level gangs and dealers in the business of furnishing teens and children with cannabis products is a bi-partisan issue.

 

Another candidate that the PAC will be backing is Washington State Rep. Lauren Davis (D), which might seem like an unusual pick for an anti-legalization committee since the lawmaker last year sponsored a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of all drugs.

Niforatos said that Davis is “a friend of ours, and she is a courageous lawmaker who has worked in the recovery field and has bravely taken on the marijuana industry in Washington State by advocating for sensible regulations such as potency caps.”


And here we go with the regulations from the no-nothings. To be frank, if you believe in potency caps in the area of cannabis and don’t see a need for other substances such as alcohol or caffeine (the caffeine content of energy drinks has only been rising in the past few years) to have similar conversations, then you are an idiot and are not worth listening too.

 

“She is also someone who recognizes drug addiction is something to be treated with the goal of recovery, not normalizing use or allowing commercialization of drugs,” he said, adding that he disputes the characterization of her legislation as “broad decriminalization” even though it seeks to remove criminal penalties for small possession all drugs, in addition to bolstering substance misuse treatment.

“That doesn’t mean we will agree on everything—we likely won’t ever agree on every single policy issue or nuance with any of our candidates we support,” he said. “But Rep. Davis is putting the health and safety of families first and these are values we feel are desperately needed for policymakers in America.”


Recovery.

There is another booming industry in this broken world that I have not even touched on in this article (but I did HERE). Then there are the problems with AA as the status quo recovery program (as infamously chronicled by James Frey in the 2000s). But not the focus of this piece.

 

Also on the PAC’s roster is a former federal prosecutor from the state of West Virginia who is currently running for state Senate. Mike Stuart has regularly expressed hostility to cannabis reform, including at summit events and a symposium on the issue that he organized in 2018 during his time as a U.S. attorney.

The committee will further be supporting Kentucky Rep. Kimberly Moser (R) in her reelection bid. The lawmaker opposed medical cannabis legalization efforts in her state, but she did sponsor cannabis research legislation that cleared the House this month.

Some might be left wondering: if the objective of the new PAC is to defeat pro-legalization candidates and support those who are against enacting such policy change, why not just continue to do that and raise funds for SAM, or its 501(c)(4) SAM Action? After all, the goals seem to closely align.

Niforatos said that “SAM has always been focused on educating the public, lawmakers, and not engaging in partisanship in any way. That mission has been successful and will continue.”

“But SAM is an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It cannot support or oppose individual candidates,” he said.


Well, at least the organization is honest with its intentions. However stupid they may be.

 

Pressed on the fact that SAM Action could theoretically accomplish what the Protect Our Kids PAC is gearing up to do, Niforatos said that the group’s 501(c)(4) “is only used for lobbying and advocacy related activities.”

“We really want to stay away from electioneering and partisanship with SAM/SAM Action,” he said. “I wanted to start a super PAC of my own, separate from those organizations, that would allow me to do more electioneering work with the vision of protecting families and kids from drugs.”


I’m certainly curious where the funding for the Super PAC and the 501c(3) is going to come from at this point. Though I can’t know for sure, this sure looks to me like opening up for business.

 

As momentum grows for drug policy reform, this is the latest example of how PACs are continuing to come into the picture.

The former lobbyist for NORML launched his own Better Organizing to Win Legalization (BOWL) PAC last month, for example. And Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the sponsor of a federal cannabis legalization bill up for a floor vote this week, sent out a joint email blast to supporters to raise funds last week.

Also last month, New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) started an equity-focused political action committee that will place a strong focus on electing candidates that support marijuana reform.

 

While I understand the existence of PACs, I can’t help but wonder if the difference between a PAC and a Super PAC makes a difference here. While a PAC seems like it is limited in scope to members of its head organization, a Super PAC has no such limitations (being able to accept cash from anyone). Something to consider when paired with a 501c(3) which can be (and often, IS) blindly financed.

 

“Marijuana Legalization Is Not Harmless” – Does Legalization Impact Opioid Mortality?

Today, we’re going to talk about the harms of cannabis. Again. 

Time to get on with it.



https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/marijuana-legalization-is-not-harmless

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research contains some inconvenient news for the rosy worldview of those who claim that marijuana is a completely harmless drug.

The paper reviews data on opioid and marijuana use and makes two key findings — first, that “medical marijuana, particularly when available through retail dispensaries, is associated with higher opioid mortality.” The second finding is that data “for recreational marijuana, while less reliable, also suggest that retail sales through dispensaries are associated with greater death rates relative to the counterfactual of no legal cannabis.”

The increase in opioid deaths associated with marijuana use is greater for men, nonwhites, and young people.

 

I’m curious about the source material (the study) since a link was not provided within this editorial. Let’s go hunting.

Our analyses show that RMLs increase adult marijuana use and reduce drug-related arrests over an average post-legalization window of three to four years. There is little evidence to suggest that RML-induced increases in marijuana consumption encourage the use of harder substances or violent criminal activity, and some evidence that RMLs may aid in reducing opioid-related mortality.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w29038

*Raises eyebrow*

It’s a bit hard to determine what paper the source article is referencing (here is the PDF of the full paper sourced above), but hardly a skim indicates a totally different set of results than those reported in the article. At least if this is the source, which it may not be. 

I also came across THIS paper, which also seems to indicate results contrary to the narrative that the examiner is aiming for. As goes for THIS one.

Altering my query a bit (and using scholar mode), I finally seem to be getting closer.

 

Recent studies have concluded that state laws legalizing medical marijuana can reduce deaths from opioid overdoses. Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey uniquely suited to assessing drug misuse, we examine the relationship between recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) and the use of opioids. Standard difference-in-differences (DD) regression estimates indicate that RMLs do not affect the likelihood of misusing prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. Although DD regression estimates provide evidence that state laws legalizing recreational marijuana can reduce the frequency of misusing prescription pain relievers, event-study estimates are noisy and suggest that any effect on the frequency of misuse is likely transitory.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w29087

This one?

 

For other public health outcomes such as mortality involving prescription opioids, the effect of legalizing medical marijuana has proven more difficult to gauge and, as a consequence, we are less comfortable drawing firm conclusions.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w28647

 

Nope. Next!

 

. . . in most cases, the inclusion of more comprehensive controls, longer analysis periods and more correctly defined dependent variables results in less favorable estimates, often including predicted increases in opioid deaths.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w29802

Bingo.

Though it might not be apparent, I committed some Washington Examiner-level journalistic manipulation in the last quote.

Well, it is pretty obvious. Nonetheless, here is what I (and they) failed to tell you. Keep in mind that the following is from the abstract (I have not even touched the actual PDF!):

 

Over the last two decades there has been considerable movement at the state-level to legalize marijuana, initially for medical purposes and more recently for recreational consumption. Despite prior research, it is unclear how, if at all, these policies are related to rates of opioid-involved overdose deaths, which have trended rapidly upwards over time and represent a major public health problem. We provide two types of new information on this question. First, we replicate and extend upon previous investigations and show that the empirical results of those studies are frequently fragile and that, in most cases, the inclusion of more comprehensive controls, longer analysis periods and more correctly defined dependent variables results in less favorable estimates, often including predicted increases in opioid deaths. Second, we present new estimates from generalized differences-in-differences and event study models that incorporate more recent data and improvements developed in our replication and extension of early research. These results indicate that legal medical marijuana, particularly when available through retail dispensaries, is associated with higher opioid mortality. The results for recreational marijuana, while less reliable, also suggest that retail sales through dispensaries are associated with greater death rates relative to the counterfactual of no legal cannabis.

 

My first thought upon reading that is “What does this even mean?!”.

For the Washington Examiner editorial team, it’s a handy reference that no one (aside from some Canadian running a blog no one reads) will realize is falsely cited. But for me, it strikes me as citing a question of correlation vs causation.

Since cannabis dispensaries and the majority of drug users are likely to be clumped in higher population areas (such as cities), could the correlation be related to nothing more than geographical dynamics?

This is highly doubtful. Let’s cite the paper itself to see if we can gain some insights.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w29802

From the paper:

More than 930,000 Americans died of drug overdoses from 1999-2020 (Hedegaard et
al. 2021). A large majority of these involved opioids, and both all drug mortality and deaths
implicating opioids accelerated markedly during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.


In response to these alarming trends, there have been multiple federal, state and local efforts
to reduce opioid deaths and related problems including: better tracking of prescribing
through drug monitoring programs; improved access to non-opioid pain care, naloxone, and
medications treating opioid use disorder; assistance to high-risk persons following release
from incarceration; physician and prescriber education programs; improved data
surveillance; Good Samaritan laws that reduce barriers to calling for help during opioid
emergencies; and multiple federal grant programs that provide states and local governments
with assistance in funding these and other endeavors (Purington 2019; Harris and
Mukkamala 2020; Katcher and Ruhm 2021).

I can already start to see an answer to my question in this paragraph. The pandemic drove everyone down to new levels of misery, which would account for drug-seeking behaviour in regards to all substances. While not mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that alcohol misuse also shot up.

It’s a coping mechanism, after all.

Nonetheless, I’m not going to put the answer I want to hear into the paper. After all, if I did that, I would be no better than the Washington Examiner editorial team.

At the same time, policies not directly related to opioid use or deaths may affect
these outcomes. An important potential example are state laws that legalize the
consumption and retail sale of medical or recreational marijuana. 1 Prior to 1999, the first
year analyzed below, three states (California, Oregon, and Washington) had legalized
medical marijuana, but none permitted retail sales through dispensaries. By the end of 2019,
the last year studied, 33 states had legalized medical cannabis, 29 with medical dispensaries
in place, 11 states permitted recreational marijuana, and eight of these states had operating
retail dispensaries.


A rapidly growing body of scholarship examines the relationship between marijuana
legalization and various aspects of public health. 

                                                                                             * * *

There has been more limited study of its effects on opioid-related outcomes such as prescribing behavior
(Bradford and Bradford 2016; Bradford et al. 2018; Wen and Hockenberry 2018; McMichael,
Van Horn, and Viscusi 2020) and admissions to substance abuse treatment programs,
emergency departments, or hospitals (Chu 2015; Powell, Pacula, and Jacobson 2018;
Conyers and Ayres 2020; Jayawardhana and Fernandez 2021).

Finally, researchers have examined how marijuana legalization is related to opioid
deaths. These studies, some of which are summarized in the next section, while not
voluminous, have been influential. Particularly prominent is Bachhuber et al.’s (2014)
conclusion that “medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level
opioid overdose mortality rates” (p. 1668). This study has been widely cited (over 760
Google Scholar citations as of February 2022) and has played an important role in
arguments that led some states to approve medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid use
disorder (Shover et al. 2020).  However, as discussed below, these findings turn out not to
be robust to changes in the analysis period, with subsequent research yielding ambiguous
findings.

 

And there it is.

I didn’t answer the question that I was looking to answer earlier, but I found the purpose of the study. The goal of which seems less about questioning the harmlessness of cannabis legalization, and more about cautioning that more study is required in terms of utilizing medicinal cannabis therapy for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Or maybe, utilizing cannabis as a method of treating opioid misuse disorder?

I’m not a doctor, so take this for what you will.

Since we’re this deep in the paper, we may as well explore some of their findings in this area.

 

The current study provides more definitive information on the relationship between
marijuana legalization and opioid deaths. We first show that prior empirical results are frequently fragile and that, in most cases, the inclusion of more comprehensive controls,
longer analysis periods and more correctly defined treatment variables results in less
favorable estimates or deleterious predicted effects of legal cannabis. We then present new
estimates, from generalized differences-in-differences (DiD) and event study (ES) models,
that incorporate more recent data and the improvements developed in our replication and
extension of previous research.


These results indicate that legal medical marijuana, particularly when available
through retail dispensaries, is associated with higher opioid death rates. The estimates for
recreational marijuana while less reliable – probably because most such policies have been
only recently enacted and in a lower number of states than for medical marijuana – also
suggest that retail sales through dispensaries are associated with greater opioid mortality,
relative to the counterfactual of no legal cannabis.

There is also suggestive evidence of
heterogeneity across demographic groups, with stronger deleterious recreational marijuana
effects for males, nonwhites, and relatively young adults than for their counterparts. Retail
cannabis sales also likely increase deaths involving non-opioid drugs such as stimulants and
sedatives. Finally, we indicate that more favorable findings previously observed when
analyzing deaths from 1999-2010 may reflect idiosyncratic and unreliable findings when
considering short time periods rather than, as suggested by some researchers, changes over
time in the stringency of the regulatory approaches.

 

Given this observation, we now know for sure that this is the paper that the Examiner editorial team was referencing. And the observation makes me think of a whole new hypothesis/guess for the correlation. People that are inclined to utilize or necessitate the consumption of medicinal or recreational marijuana are also likely to be open to seeking other substances. Though no line is drawn to chronic pain, mental health or any other variable, these variables tend to be a common throughline to drug-seeking behaviour, no matter what the substance.

I recall the Washington Examiner article I opened with bringing up the cannabis as a gateway drug argument when considering all of this data. What they fail to note is that many people who got slash get addicted to opioids didn’t even start out as typical drug users. Some may not have even touched cannabis once in their lives (or if they did, not for a VERY long time).

Many people in the past decade or so suffered some sort of injury and were prescribed some form of an opioid to help with pain relief. Unknown to these patients (who put their trust in the doctors and pharmaceutical companies within the US medical system), profitability was often pushed at all costs when it came to selling opioid medications. While far from an exhaustive list, Insys Therapeutics and Perdue Pharma are 2 very egregious examples of this malpractice in action.

While not mentioned by the Washington Examiner article or in the paper they cited (at least not in the pages I referenced), all of this plays into the outcomes we are looking at.

Though simple minds like easy-to-digest conclusions, humans are very messy as far as all things medical, physical and mental are concerned. One could say that it is one of the biggest drawbacks of being human. We’re all complex, but our understandings are often extremely simplistic. Not a good recipe for a complex society that is evolving on a daily (if not hourly!) basis.

But THAT is a whole other topic.

Bachhuber et al. (2014), mentioned above, used public-use National Vital Statistics
System (NVSS) data from 1999-2010 to examine the relationship between medical marijuana
legalization (MML) and opioid deaths.  Their estimates suggest that MML reduced age-

adjusted opioid analgesic mortality by almost 25% and a broader measure of opioid deaths
by 23%, in models with state and year fixed effects, although with some attenuation when
state time trends were also controlled for. However, this result is sensitive to the analysis
period. Shover et al. (2019) replicated Bachhuber’s analysis and obtain a similar 21%
reduction over the 1999-2010 timespan, but they also demonstrate that the relationship
reverses when extending the investigation through 2017, with medical cannabis legalization
predicting a 23% increase in prescription opioid deaths over this longer period.

Powell, Pacula, and Jacobson’s (2018) innovation is to distinguish between the
legalization of medical marijuana and the availability of retail sales to qualified patients
through authorized medical marijuana dispensaries (MMD). Using non-public NVSS data,
they confirm Bachhuber’s (2014) negative relationship between legalization of medical
marijuana and opioid deaths from 1999-2010 but, consistent with Shover et al. (2019), show
that the effects weaken and become statistically insignificant when extending the period
through 2013. However, their key finding is that the availability of medical marijuana sales
through retail dispensaries is associated with a 28% reduction in deaths involving
prescription opioids or heroin, relative to states without legal cannabis.

 

The analysis of the data from 1999 thru 2010 and 2013 makes sense given that the opioid epidemic really started to take off in the early 2010s. As does the noted drop in opioid fatalities in localities with a dispensary since people with the option are more likely to try alternatives (such as CBD, or normal THC) in their pursuit of pain relief. Law-abiding people outside of areas with dispensaries are more likely to follow the law and thus take a prescription from their medical doctor. A prescription which is likely to involve an opioid medication.

Keep in mind that not all prescriptions for opioids are unnecessary and that not all doctors prescribing them are malicious. Just as the public was, many doctors were lied to in terms of the potential harms of the medications they were prescribing, often learning the hard way that their attempt to help patients only lead to their ultimate detriment. The opioid crisis has many victims, and the good ethical people of the medical establishment are one of them.

Using similar methods and data for 1999-2017, Chan, Burkhardt and Flyer (2020),
add controls for the legalization of recreational marijuana (RML), as well as corresponding
dispensaries (RMD). In their preferred specification, which limits analysis to 28 states, the
coefficient on recreational marijuana dispensaries is -0.23 and significant at the 10 percent
level, which they interpret to imply a 21% decrease in opioid death rates. 5 However, this
conclusion depends critically on the counterfactual comparison. Specifically, the
corresponding RML coefficient is 0.19, implying that while RMD reduces predicted opioid

mortality rates by 21% compared to an otherwise equivalent state that legalized recreational
marijuana but without retail sales, the decrease is just 4% relative to one not allowing any
type of recreational cannabis.
In recent work, Sabia et al. (2021) uses data from 2000-2019 to examine how the
legalization of recreational marijuana relates to a variety of outcomes, including mortality
rates. They provide suggestive evidence of beneficial effects, but the estimates attenuate
and frequently become statistically insignificant or detrimental with the inclusion of more
comprehensive controls or if recreational marijuana sales, rather than legalization, is used
as the treatment variable. They also do not control for the legalization of medical marijuana
in any of their models, so that the counterfactual combines states without legal marijuana
and those allowing medical cannabis.

https://www.nber.org/papers/w29802

 

I’m going to end my analysis of the paper here, finding little need to go further. Though I ended up going down many tangential rabbit holes, I feel like I’ve made it clear that the goal of the paper is very different from the goal of the Washington Examiners’ interpretation of it. It’s no wonder they didn’t link directly to the document.

Speaking of the OP article . . .

 

That may be somewhat disturbing, but the details appear even more devilish. The study importantly addresses earlier results, based on data from 1999 to 2010, that had seemed to suggest a more beneficial effect. It turns out, though, that the results abruptly changed. If you include data from 2010 to 2017, the period when medical and/or recreational marijuana legalization began in earnest in the states, the results swing from a 21% reduction in opioid deaths to a 23% increase.

The results are complex, but the study undercuts a key claim of marijuana legalization proponents who argue that marijuana is a harmless substance that causes a cheap, temporary high and nothing more.

Here, the relationship between cannabis and opioid deaths is interesting in that it reinforces a much-mocked description of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” Different drug habits might well be related in ways we do not yet understand.

 

1.) Notice that nothing is mentioned of the massive increase in opioid prescriptions in the 1999-2017 timeframe. One would seem that would be an important factor to consider.

Unless you don’t care about context.

2.) Only idiotic marijuana proponents claim it to merely be a harmless, cheap high. The associations between mental health complications and lung health are well known.

3.) As explored earlier, the gateway drug argument, in this case, is stupid. The opioid epidemic didn’t become the massive epidemic it is now just because of stoners moving up the pharmacological spectrum to better shit.

Again, context matters. Well, unless you are a right-wing rag with an agenda.

 

And of course, this is not the only pitfall associated with marijuana use that marijuana campaigners work hard to minimize. For example, habitual marijuana use as late as one’s mid-20s can cause permanent brain damage. That’s because it prevents proper development of the frontal cortex, which the American Psychological Association describes as one of the last regions of the brain to develop fully. This brain structure is “critical to planning, judgment, decision-making, and personality.”

 

For once, we have a link. And it seems to bare out what is being communicated.

Indeed, a number of studies have found evidence of brain changes in teens and young adults who smoke marijuana. In 2013, Rocío Martín-Santos, MD, PhD, at the University of Barcelona, and colleagues reviewed 43 studies of chronic cannabis use and the brain. They found consistent evidence of both structural brain abnormalities and altered neural activity in marijuana users. Only eight of those studies focused on adolescents, but the findings from those studies suggested that both structural and functional brain changes emerge soon after adolescents start using the drug. Those changes may still be evident after a month of abstaining from the drug, the researchers reported (PLOS ONE, 2013).

Some of those brain abnormalities have been linked to cognitive differences. Gruber found that regular, heavy marijuana users — those who reported smoking five of the last seven days, and more than 2,500 times in their lives — had damage to their brains’ white matter, which helps enable communication among neurons. Those white matter changes were correlated with higher impulsivity, she found, particularly in people who began smoking before age 16 (Psychopharmacology, 2013).

Much of Gruber’s work compares heavy, regular marijuana users who began before and after age 16. Her results suggest there’s greater risk in starting young. Compared with users who began after 16, early-onset smokers made twice as many mistakes on tests of executive function, which included planning, flexibility, abstract thinking and inhibition of inappropriate responses. As adults, those who started using before 16 reported smoking nearly 25 times per week, while those who started later smoked half as often, about 12 times per week. The early-onset smokers also reported smoking an average of nearly 15 grams each week, versus about 6 grams for their late-onset counterparts (Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2012).

Gruber’s participants had reported using marijuana at least five times in the past week. But other labs have found structural differences in the brains of less frequent users. Jodi Gilman, PhD, at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine, and colleagues used MRI to look for brain changes in 18- to 25-year-olds who smoked marijuana at least once per week, but were not dependent on the drug.

Compared with nonusers, the smokers had changes in the shape, volume and gray matter density of two brain regions associated with addiction: the nucleus accumbens (which plays a role in motivation, pleasure and reward processing) and the amygdala (a region involved in memory, emotion and decision-making). Participants who smoked more often had more significant differences (Journal of Neuroscience, 2014).

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain

 

However . . .

 

But the case against marijuana isn’t closed. Other studies have failed to turn up evidence that marijuana use results in brain abnormalities. In one recent example, Barbara Weiland, PhD, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and colleagues attempted to replicate Gilman’s study in adolescents and adults who smoked marijuana daily. But Weiland’s team argued that previous studies, including Gilman’s, failed to adequately control for alcohol use by the participants. After carefully matching for alcohol intake in the control and experimental subjects, the researchers failed to find physical differences in the nucleus acumbens or the amygdala of daily marijuana smokers (Journal of Neuroscience, 2015).

On the other hand, says Lisdahl, Weiland’s subjects were primarily male — and some research suggests females might be more sensitive to marijuana’s effects during adolescence.

In other cases, too, the evidence against marijuana is frustratingly mixed. While some studies have found increased risk for mood disorders and psychotic symptoms among marijuana users, for instance, a new study by Jordan Bechtold, PhD, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues found that chronic use among teenage boys did not raise the risk of later depression, lung cancer, asthma or psychotic symptoms (Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2015).

 

Context. It matters. But on the bright side, the researchers are doing what they do best and attempting to close the information gap.

In hopes of painting a clearer picture of marijuana’s potential risks to youth, NIDA plans to launch the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study later this year. The prospective longitudinal study will follow 10,000 individuals across the United States over a decade, starting when they’re 9 or 10. “The idea is to look at what these kids are like before they start using substances, and then follow over time what happens to their brains,” Weiss says.

 

With that out of the way, let’s see what else the Examiner editorial has for us to sus out.

 

This means that use among teenagers, which is a lot more common than people would like to admit, and even use among young adults has deleterious and permanent health effects.

 

The only people that don’t want to admit that teenagers use (or are prone to use, at very least) cannabis are those with their heads up their ass. I suspect that this group overlaps with the Washington Examiners’ audience base, but of course, this is just a hypothesis.

One legislative action that tends to decrease teen cannabis use, however, is legalization. Selling cannabis through age-restricted dispensaries.

Whoda thought. Forcing sales through underground sources that don’t require an ID for the purchase of cannabis results in many more teenagers accessing the drug.

 

This is something to remember when these campaigners come to your state and try to sell you on the idea of cannabis as something completely harmless. One need not exaggerate the dangers of marijuana to acknowledge that they at least exist.

 

And YET, here we are.

 

Children’s Photos And Social Media – Childhood Exploitation?

Today, we will be exploring an issue that I’ve had on the backburner for a number of years, but of which a fairly recent Pitchfork article (written by Jazz Monroe) and a court finding brought back to the forefront of my mind.

 

Naked Nirvana Baby’s Nevermind Pornography Lawsuit Dismissed

Spencer Elden had claimed that the cover constituted child sexual exploitation

 

As you can see, the January 13th deadline has long since passed. Though this article was published on January 4th (and came to my attention on January 5th), the past month has been a busy one, with me only coming back to this now (February 2ed). Nonetheless, the article presents us with a number of paths that we can pursue.

1.) Did Spencer Elden play along with the fame/infamy that came along with the photograph?

2.) Did Spencer file another appeal before the January 13th deadline?

To answer the first question, yes he did. Twice. For both the 15 and 25 year anniversaries of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind.

 

Nirvana baby recreates iconic album cover 25 years later

The naked swimming baby from the cover of the groundbreaking Nirvana album “Nevermind” re-enacted the image for the record’s 25th anniversary — this time wearing clothes.

Spencer Elden, 25, wanted to go au naturel when he made a splash to honor the legendary grunge band, he told The Post.

“I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” said Elden, an artist from LA.

 

     * * *

Elden did the same thing 10 years ago, in honor of the album’s 15th anniversary.

 

https://nypost.com/2016/09/23/nirvana-baby-recreates-iconic-album-cover-25-years-later/

 

The article also notes that his parents were paid $200 back in 1991 for allowing the photograph of their son to be taken. Boy, did they get screwed over. Though the article also notes that Spencer accepted $200 from a photographer to again recreate the iconic photograph back in 2016.

Dude . . .

As for whether or not Spencer followed through with the appeal, it appears that he did in fact refile the suit.

 

The man who appeared as a naked baby on Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album has filed a new lawsuit alleging the image is child porn — just weeks after a judge tossed his original case.

Spencer Elden, 30, filed the new complaint against Kurt Cobain’s estate and Nirvana’s surviving members in California federal court on Thursday.

The new lawsuit includes a declaration from the album’s graphic designer that Elden’s lawyers argue proves the band and record label, Geffen Records, deliberately sought to display baby Elden’s penis and exploit the image for commercial gain.

Elden claims in the lawsuit that he has suffered “lifelong damages” as a result of having his naked body plastered on the 1991 album cover.

https://nypost.com/2022/01/14/naked-nirvana-nevermind-baby-spencer-elden-refiles-dismissed-lawsuit/

 

Though this has yet to make its way through the court system, I have my doubts that he is going to get any further with his case. After all, there is evidence in the public record of him, in fact, embracing his unique (though arguably exploitative) history.

Do I doubt that the image has in fact closed some doors in terms of his pursuits?  No.

Do I think that the image has bolstered far more than hindered his future prospects? Yes.

Though this lawsuit comes across as a sign of him running into hard times recently, it’s hard to believe that the iconic photo has not helped him in his modelling career at least a little. I mean, even though it isn’t mentioned, the guy plays up his very similar looks to Kurt Cobain by keeping his hair long! One would think that someone who is traumatized by their association to such a phenomenon would do everything they can to distance themselves from it. As opposed to leaning into it.

I may be missing things in my critique. Maybe there is context to be found that isn’t at all obvious. But even though this does in fact seem like a fruitless lawsuit (meritless? THAT is definitely debatable outside of the legal framework), I see Spencer doing well for himself with or without embracing his Nevermind infamy.

While it looks like Spencer sealed his legal fate decades ago, this article does in fact raise a very interesting legal situation regarding the use of social media. At the same time, we will explore a very drastic difference between how past generations stored precious memories, and how modern generations do so.

Being 33, I am old enough to have parents that had albums full of childhood photos and VHS tapes filled with various childhood events. When I think of these forms of storage, they are about as secure as you can get in terms of privacy. Aside from the people tasked with developing the photos or transferring the video to VHS, the photos never left your possession.
The Robin Williams thriller One Hour Photo (2002) serves as a brilliant time capsule in terms of the unlikely circumstances in which your privacy may be breached when it comes to photo prints.  

We all know where things went from here. First the transition to digital cameras, and seemingly a year later, to phones. And along with the transition from digital to phones also came a transition of where much of this material was/is stored. From various media kept in and around the home, to public-facing social media platforms or private-oriented cloud servers elsewhere (potentially not even in the same country). Since the amount of available space for storing this personal content has increased to essentially infinity in many cases, the amount of material many of us are uploading has also hugely increased. Once reserved for special moments like holidays or birthday parties, these days any time is a good time to share a moment. Anytime, anywhere.

Being responsible for their children until the age of 18, many parents now document nearly every waking moment of their children’s existence and share it on various social media entities. Though some apps only make this material available for a short time, it may sit up on other platforms essentially forever. Due to legally binding TOS agreements that are agreed to upon parents signing up for various services, the child may well have lost control of their right to privacy before they even reach the age at which they can talk. Parents consent on their behalf to social media terms of service which claim ownership over any content they upload, and thus they are on the way to losing any autonomy over their photographic likeness before they are even out of diapers.

Though the same can now be said of a good number of my childhood photos (most have been scanned and now are posted online), the big difference was that I (for the most part) knew about this and had a choice in the matter. Of course, even this isn’t foolproof (I’m sure we all have a family member with a tendency of oversharing). But at least I am aware of it, and (at least for the most part) had the chance to put a stop to this public display of my likeness if I so choose. It’s a privilege that isn’t going to be available to an entire generation that has (or IS) growing up within this increasingly digitally saturated paradigm.

Though this would include the Zoomers of gen Z (a generation that has for the most part embraced this technology, it just being a part of their everyday life as they grew up), I’m talking of the Alphas at this point. Raised in the social media paradigm, given the current status quo, they will never have a choice of whether or not they want to opt-in or out. Because the choice has already been made for them, long before they ever were conscious that they even had a choice.

This brings me to a realization of ourselves. In a sense, none of us have the choice to opt-out at this point either.

Many people make hay of doing things like closing Facebook accounts and leaving other social media sites. While I don’t doubt that it looks like you are making a difference (be it in the context of yourself, or in the wider world), one has to question the effectiveness of such actions. Both because of how monopolized many aspects of online life have become (how many people in your circle use Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp?), and because you don’t need to have an account in many of these platforms for them to track your activities online.

While I am venturing into territory that is somewhat off-topic to where I began (online tracking VS choosing to control your identity and likeness online), they both intersect in the sense that we have very little control of our data once we choose (or have the choice made for us by proxy) to make it available for whatever reason. Consider some time in the future in which you may want to completely erase your online identity for any reason. You can delete photos and social media profiles, but you don’t have much control of what lives on in the back-end servers of these companies. After all, consumer data is the gold in this evolving realm in which we live.

Or to step outside of the social media framework, what about a company that you dealt with in passing? A company that you no longer deal with?

For example, a foreign airline that you gave your credit card, passport and other information for a trip that you are fairly certain to never make again. A hotel chain that you may or may not visit again. Even a phone company that you may have previously dealt with, or never dealt with but still shared personal information with (rejected due to inadequate credit?).

While many companies quietly hoard consumer data for undetermined amounts of time, I can easily provide examples of data breaches exposing such practices within the industries listed above.

Air India

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carlypage/2021/05/23/air-india-data-breach-hackers-access-personal-details-of-45-million-customers/?sh=3faf40db51a2

 

Sita (Singapure Airlines, Luftunsa, United and Others)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/05/airline-data-hack-hundreds-of-thousands-of-star-alliance-passengers-details-stolen

While it should be noted that the SITA breach didn’t seem to expose much outside of frequent flyer numbers, many of these breaches (including that of Air India) tend to contain much more information.

Starwood Hotels Group AKA Marriot Hotels

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54748843

 

T-Mobile

https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/28/22857619/t-mobile-cyberattack-data-breach-december-2021-cpni-sim-swap

 

While the presence of likeness photographs living for eternity on social media platforms (anyone still have an active myspace account that was long since forgotten about?) and zombie consumer data hoarded by various companies may seem like 2 different things, they are in fact connected in the lack of control we have in reining in either. As long as companies are not held to high standards in terms of both data retention policies and cyber security, WE are the ones that will continue to pay the price. Given that the datasets that companies will be collecting are only going to diversify in the coming years (biometric data?), this aught be an issue on everyone’s radar.

There is a reason why I would never send a sample of my DNA to a private company for ancestry testing (and I would hope no one close to me would, either). Aside from the results being questionable to begin with, what happens to the DNA information afterward?

At the moment, it’s a convenient repository for police agencies to utilize in investigations.  But what about in the future?

What will your DNA be worth?

 

 

“Marijuana Users Face Increased Risk Of Deadly Stroke” / “Potent “Skunk” Causes Schizophrenia” – Bringing Context To Mainstream Media Cannabis Reporting

Today, we are going to look at 2 articles that crossed my path recently on the subject of cannabis. One examines the results of a new cannabis study, the other YET AGAIN rehashes the same old prohibition talking points that brought us to where we are in the first place. But this one has a slightly different flavour since it is out of the UK.

We will start with the cannabis study, which has been widely reported using a similar baity headline to mine. The following was published on a platform called Medical Xpress and written by someone at the American Heart Association. 

 

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-01-marijuana-users-deadly-complication-rare.html

Marijuana users’ risk of deadly complication doubles after rare type of bleeding stroke

Among people with an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) stroke, a type of bleeding stroke, recent marijuana users were more than twice as likely to develop a dangerous complication that can result in death or greater disability, according to new research published today in Stroke, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.

The study is the largest to examine the impact of THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component (change of a person’s mental state) of marijuana on complications after an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (a rare but severe form of stroke).

In an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, a weakened and bulging part of a blood vessel bursts on the surface of the brain (called a ruptured aneurysm), resulting in bleeding in the space between the brain and the tissue that covers it. This type of stroke can be devastating, resulting in neurological disability in about 66% of people and death (during the follow up period) in about 40%. The immediate treatment of an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage focuses on stopping and preventing further bleeding. However, despite treatment, in the 14 days following an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, many patients may develop worsening symptoms (such as speech problems or difficulty moving). This is caused by blood from the initial stroke irritating blood vessels, causing them to constrict enough to cut off the blood supply to a portion of the brain (called a vasospasm), resulting in more brain damage. This complication, called delayed cerebral ischemia, is a leading cause of death and disability after an aSAH stroke.

“We’re all vulnerable to a bleeding stroke or a ruptured aneurysm, however, if you’re a routine marijuana user, you may be predisposed to a worse outcome from a stroke after the rupture of that aneurysm,” said Michael T. Lawton, M.D., senior author of the study and president and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

There is no doubt about it, that is a scary finding on its face. But many conclusions can be scary without proper context.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 1,000 patients who had been treated for aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage at Barrow Neurological Institute between January 1, 2007 to July 31, 2019. All patients had been treated to stop the bleeding either via 1) open surgery to clip off the base of the aneurysm, or, 2) noninvasively, by threading a slim tube through a blood vessel to the base of the aneurysm and releasing coils that fold to fill in the space and provide a barrier to further bleeding.

Urine toxicology screening was performed on all patients admitted with ruptured aneurysms. The study compared the occurrence of delayed cerebral ischemia in 46 people (average age of 47 years; 41% female) who tested positive for THC (the component of cannabis, also known as marijuana, that induces a high) and 968 people (average age 56 years, 71% female) who tested negative for THC. A positive urine screen for THC reflects cannabis exposure within three days for a single use to within approximately 30 days for frequent heavy use.

The recent cannabis users did not have significantly larger aneurysms or worse stroke symptoms when admitted to the hospital, and they were not more likely to have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors than patients who screened negative for THC. However, recent cannabis users were significantly more likely to have also tested positive for other substances, including cocaine, methamphetamines and tobacco, compared to the patients who screened negative for THC.

Among all participants, 36% developed delayed cerebral ischemia; 50% were left with moderate to severe disability; and 13.5% died.

After adjusting for several patient characteristics as well as recent exposure to other illicit substances, patients who tested positive for THC at last follow up were found to be:

  • 2.7 times more likely to develop delayed cerebral ischemia;
  • 2.8 times more likely to have long-term moderate to severe physical disability; and
  • 2.2 times more likely to die.

 

And, there is our context. Along with the information that makes the headline of this article incredibly misleading. It would seem that this isn’t just a story about marijuana and THC, this is also a story about many illicit drugs. But I’m guessing that “Study Shows Risk Of Deadly Bleeding Stroke Complication Doubled In Illicit Drug Users” doesn’t have the same bite as using a term that is highly algorithmically favourable. As the new saying goes, if it clicks, it sticks.

 

“When people come in with ruptured aneurysms, and they have a history of cannabis use or are positive on a toxicology screen, it should raise a red flag to the treating team that they are at higher risk of vasospasm and ischemic complication,” Lawton said. “Of all the substances detected in the toxicology screen, only cannabis raised the risk of delayed cerebral ischemia. Cocaine and meth are hypertensive drugs, so they are likely related to the actual rupture but not expected to have an impact on vasospasm.”

The study does not specifically address how cannabis raises the risk of vasospasm and delayed cerebral ischemia. Lawton noted, “Cannabis may impair oxygen metabolization and energy production within cells. When stressed by a ruptured aneurysm, the cells are much more vulnerable to changes that affect the delivery of oxygen and the flow of blood to the brain.”

The study’s limitations include being conducted retrospectively at a single institution and not being a head-to-head analysis of people who use marijuana and those who don’t.

The researchers are currently conducting follow-up in the laboratory to better understand THC-related risks that may impact aneurysm formation and rupture. They also urge further research to study the impact of various doses of THC on stroke complications

 

Here, we finally learn the vector in which cannabis plays in this medical condition, at least allegedly. We also finally learn the limitations of the study, and the steps being taken in attempting to replicate the results in a scientific manner. Though I question how many people made it this far into the article before clicking off and potentially sharing it to everyone in their reach.

As is often the case, the author of the study urge caution when it comes to showcasing the results of their work. But care is futile in the face of creating attention-grabbing headlines.

“The current study is not at the level of science of a randomized controlled trial, but it is a rigorous statistical analysis involving more than 1,000 patients, so the results are important and add to what we already know about possible adverse effects of marijuana use,” said Robert L. Page II, Pharm.D., M.S.P.H., FAHA, chair of the writing group for the American Heart Association’s 2020 cannabis statement and professor in the department of clinical pharmacy and the department of physical medicine/rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Aurora, Colorado.

 

In conclusion, as with many things, more research has to be conducted to properly confirm this finding. When that happens, hopefully, the media will be just as eager to report that result as they were to run with this headline.

I won’t hold my breath.

 

                                                                                                                                                                    * * *

Our next article is out of the UK, published by the Daily Mail and written by Laurence Dollimore. I don’t need to explain what we are getting into since the headline itself makes it perfectly clear.

In 2 words . . . oh boy.

 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10381531/Liberal-parents-let-kids-smoke-cannabis-warned-induce-schizophrenia-like-psychosis.html

Liberal parents who let their children smoke cannabis are warned that the drug is causing up to a THIRD of psychosis cases in London and strong ‘skunk’ can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms

  • Sir Robin Murray has sounded the alarm over the use of highly-potent ‘skunk’ 
  • Expert said drug is behind 30 per cent of his psychosis patients in south London
  • King’s College London professor runs clinic dedicated to psychosis caused by cannabis

Highly-potent cannabis is not being taken seriously enough by some liberal-minded parents, who would rather see their teens smoke pot than drink alcohol, a top psychologist has warned.

Sir Robin Murray, 77, a professor of Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, said around a third of the psychosis patents he sees at his practice in south London are caused by use of high-strength skunk.

The expert said the cases mostly involve young people, who often suffer from debilitating paranoia and hallucinations.

 

Gotta love a population that is seemingly fine with a publication publicly shaming parents for making a parenting choice. And of course, this is aimed specifically at liberal parents.
Makes me wonder what would happen if a psychologist similarly came out and publicly shamed conservative parents for indoctrinating religious dogmas into children before they are at an age to question things for themselves. If it got covered at all, something tells me that the tone would be VERY different than this.

Political biases aside, however, the medical issue is indeed important. Though the solution as proposed is really, REALLY stupid. But, more on that later.

 

It comes as London is set to relax drug laws by no longer prosecuting young people caught in possession of cannabis – offering them educational courses on the drug’s dangers instead.

But results from European neighbours offer an insight into the potential pitfalls of such a policy – with Portugal seeing a huge surge in cannabis-induced psychosis after it decriminalised the drug in 2001.

According to research in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, the number of hospital admissions in the country with a primary diagnosis of psychotic disorders and schizophrenia stemming from cannabis use soared by nearly 30-fold, from 20 a year in 2010 to nearly 590 in 2015 – and almost 90 per cent of these patients were men, whose average age was 30.

 

It is in fact true that the number of cannabis-induced psychiatric conditions did in fact take an exponential uptick following decriminalization. That is certainly a statistic not to be taken lightly. However, Portugal is now not the only cannabis-neutral nation-state for which we can draw data. Canada has been legalized since 2018, which should make it another source of good data. 

This brings me to the very big difference between Canadian drug policy and Pourtagise drug policy. Legalization vs decriminalization.

In Canada, though the bureaucratic hoops that one has to jump through are rigid to the point of being ridiculous, the sale of regulated marijuana to 19-year-olds and older is completely legal. Since it is regulated, the THC and CBD content is closely monitored so the issue of newcomers using exclusively extremely potent drugs has become less of an issue. Childhood cannabis poisonings are indeed up from that they used to be, but frankly . . . obviously. There is far more cannabis (in particular, cannabis edibles) around then there has ever been previously. And not all parents or caregivers are going to know to keep their stash safe. Though that is indeed extremely irresponsible, how many people got into their parent’s liquor cabinets without them knowing?  

Though care is certainly urged in regards to pharmaceuticals and cannabis, alcohol deserves the same treatment (if this is the approach we are to take). If telling alhocol consumers to Drink Responsibly is considered a reasonable policy, why not consume cannabis responsibly?

This is all in contrast to decriminalization, which leaves the cultivation of cannabis in the hands of the same underground producers, but eliminates the legal risk to the actual drug users themselves. Or to put it another way, it leaves highly potent cannabis (the type that a market made up of primarily high tolerance regular users) as pretty much the only cannabis option available. Meaning that even novice users end up essentially jumping off the deep end without experience should they ever do what is human and get curious about this plant that everyone is talking about.
Also worth remembering is access to this cannabis is governed strictly by the moral compass of the dealer selling it. If they have no issue with selling to a minor, then scoring weed can be just as easy as buying a candy bar. While it is far from impossible for minors to access regulated substances like alcohol or tobacco, there are still more barriers to clear than just handing a criminal some cash and walking away with a stash.

Earlier, I had mentioned that Canada may be a good source when it comes to tracking cannabis-induced psychiatric episodes being we were the trailblazer when it came to opening up the industry on a federal level. Back in the days before legalization, I even recall an episode of marketplace exploring just this topic. Given that 3 years have passed, it feels like a good time to check and see if the fears were justified.

The following article (published on January 2ed, 2019) certainly is attempting to sound the alarm.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/mental-health-expert-warns-of-significant-increase-in-cannabis-induced-psychosis-1.4233512

Right off the bat, there was a rise in cannabis-related behavioural and mental health-related hospitalizations between 2006 and 2015.

Highlights

  • Between 2006 and 2015, the rate of hospitalizations for cannabis-related mental or behavioural disorders in Canada rose from 2.11 to 5.18 per 100 000.

  • Males consistently accounted for over two-thirds of all hospitalizations for cannabis-related mental or behavioural disorders.

  • Young people aged 15 to 24 years represented the greatest proportion of hospitalizations (between 49% and 58%) of any age group.

  • Over the entire study period, psychotic disorder was the most common clinical condition among hospitalizations for cannabis-related mental or behavioural disorders, and accounted for 48.0% of cannabis-related hospitalizations in 2015.

  • Between 2006 and 2015, the rate of hospitalizations due to cannabis-related psychotic disorder tripled, from 0.80 to 2.49 per 100,000

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2021004/article/00001-eng.htm

 

These findings make perfect sense since this was the timeframe in which cannabis (more, cannabis legalization) was slowly entering the public psyche and changing long-held attitudes towards the drug. At the same time, the debut of shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad helped bring the often gritty underworld of drug prohibition into the forefront of popular culture. Moreso Breaking Bad of course (while I still enjoy Weeds, it was primarily a comedy at heart).

As for the data I seek, sources at the moment seem rather scarce. This isn’t really surprising since it has only been around 3 years (notice that the last dataset was taken from a period spanning a decade). Though I also can’t help but wonder if part of the reason I’ve not come across more hair on fire articles is the ready availability of less potent strains in the pot shops. Though all cannabis was largely the same to me when I was viewing it as an outsider, the differences became more apparent once I started actually participating in the legal market. In fact, some people I know have even commented that they avoid much of the legal market since it demonstrates the opposite problem that the illicit market does . . . it’s aimed primarily at the novice and lite recreational user. Most of the offerings are far too weak for their raised tolerance levels.

While a big part of this stems from the profit motive (appealing to new and lite recreational users), regulations also play a role in this. While I am not sure offhand what the limits are for flower, I know the THC maximum for edibles and drinkables is 10mg. A level that is perfectly fine to send someone like me on a journey (as I found out last year), but a level that may well not work for others. Though you can of course increase the dose by buying more (up to 30 grams per transaction), this can get costly VERY quickly.

While I was and still am of the opinion that the legal market will eventually drive out the illicit market (I’m sure hooch peddlers didn’t go away overnight after the lifting of prohibition), work still needs to be done to get the paranoid and uninformed regulators out of the way. Though I understand that the heavy-handed approach is owing to the lack of research available on cannabis (and people’s overall lack of knowledge of the substance), these roadblocks will continue to prop up the illicit market so long as they exist.

Considering that this is a hindrance that isn’t shared by other substances (such as alcohol or tobacco), what of it federal regulators?

 

Sir Robin suggested the high number of cases in his practice are now impacting the facility’s ability to care for patients.

He told the Times: ‘I think we’re now 100 per cent sure that cannabis is one of the causes of a schizophrenia-like psychosis.

‘If we could abolish the consumption of skunk we would have 30 per cent less patients [in south London] and we might make a better job of looking after the patients we have.’

 

We have tried that. According to your very own findings, it didn’t work. How many more patients do you have to get inundated with before this flaw in your logic becomes apparent?

You are not helping the cause by this way of thinking. YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE!

 

Sir Robin works at the first NHS clinic in England to specifically treat cannabis smokers suffering from psychosis.

Running from Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell, south London, patients are typically seen for a minimum of 15 weeks, with treatment including one-on-one sessions with specialist therapists.

The aim of the clinic is to first help cannabis users wean themselves off the drug before helping them to manage without it – helped by weekly group therapy sessions with fellow patients and experts.

Sir Robin has praised the clinic, reporting it to be a success, even when services moved online due to the Covid pandemic.

It comes after he was part of the first team of researchers who proved a link between cannabis and mental illness among teenagers in the early 2000s – with many papers backing up his findings ever since.

Only two years ago, a study found that south London had the highest incidence of psychosis in Europe – and cannabis was said to be the largest contributing factor.

The investigation, overseen by Sir Robin and published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found that those who smoked high-potency skunk were five times more likely to develop psychosis than those who did not smoke it.

According to the findings, rates of psychosis in London could be slashed by 30 per cent if skunk was taken off the streets.

 

You can tell someone’s seriousness in tackling a given issue by the seriousness in the solutions they propose. If skunk were abolished from the streets, hurray . . . PROBLEM SOLVED!

Get serious. Clearly, that has not worked because THERE IS NO ABOLISHING SKUNK. It is already abolished. And yet the problem still persists. Hence, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and consider what has worked. Since the decriminalization model has problems (according to your own argument), how about the legalization model?

Though the dataset is indeed young for this model, it is still there.

While it has been noted that higher instances of cannabis use associated with legalization will likely result in more instances of cannabis-induced mental or behavioural disorders,  this isn’t as much of an “AAAAHHHHH!” observation as it is a “DUH!” observation.

The more people who get licences and own vehicles, the more instances of drunk driving and speeding there will be. The more people that purchase alcohol, the more instances of alcohol poisoning there will be. While I am not discounting the need for research to close the gaps in knowledge that persist in cannabis research, bad outcomes are still far from the norm when it comes to the average cannabis experience. Therefore if we are not prohibiting alcohol and vehicles based on the small but very visible percentage that catches the headlines, the same should apply for cannabis.

Particularly when it is entirely possible to adjust some of the variables that are totally uncontrollable in both illegal and decriminalized frameworks. For example, age restrictions of legalized cannabis will help to keep skunk out of the hands of most children and teens. And regulation of potency and (most importantly) education in terms of the effects of this potency will go a long way towards keeping the very powerful stuff out of the hands of those unprepared for it.

THERE is your solution. As opposed to more standing aside and pissing into the wind and wondering why our knickers keep getting wet.

 

Despite its potentially harmful effects, Sir Robin welcomed London’s plans to end prosecution of young people found in possession of cannabis.

The policy, set to be adopted by the Metropolitan Police, would see carriers of the drug offered educational courses on its dangers.

But Sir Robin wants more clarification over the scheme.

He said: ‘My questions will be: where will they get the counsellors who know anything about risks of cannabis?

‘What will happen if they don’t accept the counselling or go back to cannabis use? 

‘And will it be accompanied by any education regarding the risks of cannabis — this is by far the most important thing.’

He added: ‘Because Lewisham is one of the proposed boroughs [where the scheme could first be introduced] we will be able to track the effects on psychiatric problems secondary to cannabis use — addiction, suicide attempts and psychosis.

‘But we need also to track road traffic accidents, street violence and visits to A&E departments for cannabis problems.’

Sir Robin said policy changes in other countries provided potential warnings for Britain.

In the state of Colorado in the US, there are now cannabis products available which contain more than 70 per cent THC – or tetrahydrocannabinol – the compound which gives users a high.

For comparison, traditional weed from the 1960s contained around 3 per cent or less THC, while the average in Europe and North America today is 10 to 15 per cent, according to an article by Sir Robin in JAMA Psychiatry.

 

It is amazing how attached these boomers are to out-of-date and overly destructive ideas of the past that just don’t work. While the support of decriminalization is a step in the right direction, education of the dangers of cannabis IS NOT!
Assuming that the Canadian education system is not all that different from the British system, we were made well aware of the dangers of drugs all through the process. So much so that the reality of the situation (at least when it came to cannabis) ended up casting doubt on almost everything I learned through the years from the curriculum. A big danger when it comes to people moving on to far more risky drugs than cannabis.

While it is good to make young people aware of the risks posed by drugs (including cannabis), fear-mongering doesn’t work. Scaring young people is not a solution, it is an old tactic that has proven futile. If you truly want to tackle this problem, start supporting cannabis legalization schemes and get some of the market variables back under regulated control.

 

Meanwhile, a study in Denmark found that alongside a rise in THC potency, cannabis-associated schizophrenia has increased by up to 400 per cent over the past two decades, reported the Times.

Sir Robin’s study in 2019 warned that 94 per cent of all cannabis available on the streets of London was in the form of skunk. 

Researchers from King’s College London studied 2,100 people in 11 cities in Europe and South America in the biggest study of its kind.

They found that the link with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and paranoid delusion was strongest in London and Amsterdam – the two cities where high-potency cannabis is most commonly available.

Sir Robin said at the time: ‘If you are going to legalise, unless you want to pay for a lot more psychiatric beds and a lot more psychiatrists then you need to devise a system in a way that will not increase the consumption and will not increase the potency. Because that is what has happened in the US states where there has been legalisation for recreational use.

 

1.) Prohibition is the reason why all of these problems are happening. Since these boomer types insist on playing hands-off as to their part in all of this, let’s make it crystal clear.

2.) While I am unsure of whether or not Colorado had a spike in cannabis-related psychiatric episodes post-legalization (and certainly post super-strong edibles availability), there is no way to not have the amount of cannabis use not rise post-legalization. It’s an incredibly stupid requirement to begin with since the key to arresting the problem is education and potency controls. While it is true that I don’t believe that potency limits are helpful, education of consumers IS helpful.

 

‘The critical question is whether medicinal use remains medicinal. The problem in California and Canada was that medicinal use became a synonym for recreational use.

‘You could go on the internet and tell a doctor, “I have headaches, I have back pain, I feel better if I have cannabis”. The main reason they legalised it was to try to control the amount of so-called medicinal use there, hoping that there would be a decrease in the use.’  

The research, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, found that skunk – with a THC level of more than 10 per cent – increased the odds of psychosis 4.8-fold in a person who smoked every day compared with someone who never used the drug. 

Using it more than once a week was less dangerous, but still increased the risk 1.6-fold.

 

Actually, the real goal of the Canadian government’s cannabis legalization was limiting youth access and reducing criminal involvement in the trade, according to this article. A goal that makes perfect sense since eliminating fake medicinal use by way of legalization is just stupid. How is easing access to cannabis going to drive usage rates down?

That is just stupid. Coming from a so-called doctor . . . Jesus Christ, stick to psychiatry.

Though my bias and education in this area tends to make fossil attitudes on the subject like these quite caustic to my well-being, not all cannabis critiques are this devoid of critical thought. The following post covers an analysis that I rather liked in both its informativeness and its honesty. Fear was never used, only information.

 

“Can Marijuana Cause Psychosis?” – (Psychology Today)

The sooner everyone begins to approach cannabis legislation and research with more emphasis on honesty and reality, the sooner it will become less of a vector for creating unwitting casualties. Until then, the chaos left in its unregulated wake is just as much on the heads of the academic proponents of the status quo (such as Sir Robin Murray!) as it is on the growers and dealers themselves.

Consider yourselves warned and informed.

Gordon Ramsay – The Secret To Imense Riches?

Wait, what?

That was certainly my reaction upon coming across the link to this article somewhere (maybe Twitter).

One thing is for sure, there is definitely a lot going on here. No less than 5 trademarks and the alleged words of 1 internationally renowned celebrity. Let’s go further.

If you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more wild meet 96-year-old Beth Stanson, who in her advanced age has been somewhat of a homebody. In a time where we’re told to keep our distance from family and friends Beth spent many hours watching TV and surfing the web but her grand-children became curious about what she was up to all this time.

She revealed that over the past few months she had been secretly amassing an enormous wealth. So much so that all of her 16 grand-children would be able to quit their jobs so they could pursue their dreams.

The interesting thing is exactly how she was able to make so much money. Beth used a new automated bitcoin trading platform that she had seen on TV.

I admit that I stumbled into this out of pure curiosity, drawn to the link by a photo of Gordon Ramsay (as I’m sure is the case for many people). Though it held the feel of a local news story for the first paragraph, this quickly fell apart when I read “so much so that all of her 16 grand-children would be able to quit their jobs so they could pursue their dreams.

Which made me curious (as did all of the testimonials running down the right side of the page). Automated bitcoin trading platform? 

Also, what does Gordon Ramsay have to do with this?

 

Multi-Michelin star celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay just bought his ninth Ferrari using money he earned not from his hosting shows or restaurants – but from a new controversial investment he revealed on live television.

During our exclusive interview with the “Hells Kitchen” chef himself, Ramsay admitted he earned $13.5 million last year through a new controversial system he shared with Phillip and Holly on ITV’s This Morning.

Here’s what the superstar chef himself has to say about his secret money-making methods:

Listen, I’ve been wanting to do something different. Something special. You see, I’ve been blessed to live my dream life because I’ve had the privilege of owning my own restaurants and staring on reality TV shows.

Today, I want to give back and show everyone EXACTLY how I’ve made millions of dollars over the last few months outside of my regular businesses. It’s something I’ve been doing on the side, and something anyone in the UK can do, and it’s made enough for me to buy my ninth Ferrari.

My passion will always be cooking, but recently I’ve been learning about investing. I stumbled upon a new system called The News Spy that’s made me more money in the last 6 months than any of my other buinesses. And the best part is, this amazing opportunity just became available to regular folks in the UK so I have to share it with everyone.

I’ll explain what The News Spy is in just a bit. But first, to prove how amazing this system really is. Holly, I’m going to give you £195 to deposit and try it for yourself right now.”

Ramsay then wrote a check to Holly for £195 ($250 USD), which she deposited into the system to try for herself. Within minutes, Holly‘s jaw dropped open as she began making a real profit – on live television!

 

While I don’t know Ramsay personally, I’ve never seen him driving a Ferrari in any of his shows older to fairly recent shows. In most of his older shows (Boiling Point, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Behind Bars) he drives an Audi sedan, and in the newer American shows, he’s usually in a GM SUV of some sort (almost always black). Though I seem to recall him pulling up to the Hell’s Kitchen studios in a Ferrari, that hardly seems his MO.

But that is just the conjecture of a Ramsay fanboy. What is more important is, did he actually say that? And if so, is there footage?

Speaking of footage, why not share THAT instead of just a screencap?

Before I go digging again, let’s see what else Gordon has to say.

Ramsay continued,

“Now I know what you’re thinking Phllip and Holly. You probably think this is a trick or it doesn’t make sense. You may have seen Bitcoin or Ethereum on the news, and maybe even invested into it yourself. Maybe you think it’s a scam because you don’t understand it or lost money.

Well, what I do to earn at least 6 figures every month is something completely different. I use this The News Spy to cash in on the Bitcoin boom with absolutely no investing or technology experience. And the best part is, anyone can do the same.

You just saw for yourself how fast this works”

Before Holly could even muttor a word, Ramsay continutes…

“Look guys, I love to cook and help up and coming chefs improve thier cooking. I don’t have time to sit in front of a computer and trade cryptocurrencies all day. That’s why I use The News Spy to do it for me automatically. It’s is backed by Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg – some of the smartest tech minds on the planet.

See, most people think the Bitcoin boom is over. But in fact, it’s just getting started.”

 

If there is one thing I can say about that Ramsay live TV segment, it does not sound natural to him at all. Even his commercial selling for Rogers was more authentic than that!

I hate Rogers Communications with a passion, but this was the only place I could find the video, so Rogers tweet it is. No,
this is not an endorsement. FUCK ROGERS!! FUCK your monopolistic, parasitic, greedy shit show of a company. And to all the
current day Shaw customers out there . . . I pity you. I really do. You didn’t ask to be part of the Rogers march to becoming 
the Comcast of Canada!

Just in case it’s not clear by now that this isn’t an endorsement . . . FUCK ROGERS !!!!!!!

 

Either way, getting back to where we started, I seem to have found the video clip the article is referring to. At least it has a matching thumbnail to the one used in the article.

Though the video was 7 minutes long, not one mention of Bitcoin, finances, or anything related. Just a conversation about food, family, and other far more Ramsay-esk subject matter. Also, who on earth is Philip & Holly?

Also morning show hosts, according to Wikipedia and other sources. Like other such variety shows, the rooster of main hosts seems to alternate due to various factors. Either way, irrelevant, since the clip has nothing to do with shilling bitcoin or anything else aside from the benefits of healthy living.

I don’t know what Holly is looking at, but I’m almost certain that it isn’t the shocking returns on her investment of Gordon’s pocket change. I mean . . . really. I’ve tipped more percentage-wise to service workers than Gordon gave Holly to invest.

But again, that is irrelevant since its obvious that Gordon has nothing to do with this. With that in mind, let’s see where else this journey takes us.

The News Spy is backed by Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg

“Now I’m not going to bullshit you or your viewers. Not every trade is a profitable one. See, theautomated software using advanced machine learning and data modeling to make trades. To be honest, I barely know what that means besides it works very well.

However, the system does mess up sometimes. Nothing is ever going to be right 100% of the time. Yet even with it’s mistakes, I’m still profitable about 80-89% of the time. That means for every 1 losing trade, there are about 9 winning ones.

It’s trading hundreds of times per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can imagine how that much adds up. On an average day, I’ll make about $5,000 to $8,000 profit. Unbelievable right? What I do is take out about half for play money – travel, cars, toys. And then I reinvest the other half. That’s how I’m able to earn more and more money over time.

 

Now, as Gordon continues to explain the risks and benefits of whatever the fuck, 3 more names have been dropped, AND another trademark has made an appearance. But it does help make my job a little easier.

In short:

“Hey Google, does Elon Musk back The News Spy?”

. . .

“No”

https://blog.sircles.net/post/2021/07/13/elon-musk-news-spy-ads

 

To cut right to the chase of that link:

 

 
 
 
Good luck indeed.
 

But now you know. I may have click baited to get you here, but now you are just a little more aware than you were before. When it comes to the internet, you can never be too careful. There are many fingers that would LOVE access to your wallet.

Crypto or otherwise.

Richard Dawkins Opposes Trans Rights

For many readers of this piece, you are likely coming at this from one of 2 angles. Some may think “Wait, what?!”. And for the rest of us, it’s “Here we go again . . .”

In truth, I am less interested in critiquing Dawkins himself than I am in getting to the source material. The man has proven willing to align with the wrong side of history more than once, so to hell with him. Just the latest example of the spectacular fall of the once-revered 4 horsemen of reason.

There is nothing new to see here.

With that, we will move directly on to the declaration that the man signed, and wanted the rest of us to sign. With approaching 30,000 signatories from over 153 countries and over 400 organizations, the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights is the product of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign. The aim of the organization is summed up by the title of the declaration itself:

Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) is a group of volunteer women from across the globe dedicated to protecting women’s sex-based rights. Our volunteers include academics, writers, organizers, activists, and health practitioners, and aim to represent the total breadth of the human female experience.

Based in the UK, the organization appears to have a very meagre budget despite having members the world over (as can be seen by their financial statement, which can be found at the bottom of this page). Either way, having explored the background of the group, we will now get right into the declaration.

Declaration on Women’s Sex-based Rights

On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.

Before we even begin, I feel the need to address the difference between some terms (both included and not). The terms are sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sex applies to the physical differences which are visible or detectable. Gender covers the social constructs and implications coinciding with each sex. As for gender identity, that covers the individual lived experience (regardless of variables imposed by sex, gender, environment and others). Sexual orientation is more concerned with who you are attracted to.

There are also some useful terms that I have not included here:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions

Some of these terms are uncontroversial, others . . . not so much. I felt the need to do this right off the bat to establish my stance going into this. To put it another way, I’m laying out my bias up front. Even if that bias happens to coincide with our lived reality.

A big issue that we run into right away is that people tend to be messy as far as fitting into rigid labels is concerned. And at the same time, many people find it difficult to comprehend others that live fluidly to rigid labels and expectations.
Some of this can be attributed to personal bias, but a bigger part of this comes from the social constructs of gender which are imposed by societies themselves.

1.) Using the term society tends to be far too broad a term in this context since what constitutes gender can fluctuate from one region to the next within a given macro society (such as a nation). One of the more obvious examples of this will be the differences between cities and rural areas. And even within the various boundaries of the city itself (such as the core areas VS suburbs, or even between various suburbs).

2.) I hesitate to use the term bigotry since ignorance does not always equate to bigotry. Anyone without the time to sit down and research many terms can get lost in the fog. However, refusal to even consider a contrary opinion to their predetermined bias is certainly a big red flag.

Most people are rightfully confused by this stuff. However, the difference between being ignorant and being bigoted lies in one’s ability to accept new information. With this in mind, we will once again proceed.

Introduction

This Declaration reaffirms the sex-based rights of women which are set out in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979 (CEDAW), further developed in the CEDAW Committee General Recommendations, and adopted, inter alia, in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993 (UNDEVW).

Article 1 of the CEDAW defines discrimination against women to mean, “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.’’

Sex is defined by the United Nations as “the physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males from females.’’ (Gender Equality Glossary, UN Women)

The CEDAW places obligations on States Parties to ‘‘take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.’’ (Article 2 (f)); and to take, in all fields, “appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.’’ (Article 3).

It has long been understood in the area of human rights that the stereotyped sex roles of men and women are a fundamental aspect of women’s inequality and must be eliminated.

 

The thought occurs to me that a better wording choice would have been stereotyped gender roles of men and women. But I’ll overlook it, lest I run the risk of it coming across as mansplaining.

Article 5 of the CEDAW states,

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

1.

To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.’’​

2.

Gender refers to “the roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate for men and women… These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes.’’ (Gender Equality Glossary, UN Women).

Recent changes replacing references to the category of sex, which is biological, with the language of ’gender’, which refers to stereotyped sex roles, in United Nations documents, strategies, and actions, has led to confusion which ultimately risks undermining the protection of women’s human rights.

 

Though I am unsure of exactly what documents are being referenced here (likely many), I did find this:

Guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English

These Guidelines include a number of strategies to help United Nations staff use gender-inclusive language. They may be applied to any type of communication, whether it is oral or written, formal or informal, or addressed to an internal or external audience.

When deciding what strategies to use, United Nations staff should:

  • Take into account the type of text/oral communication, the context, the audience and the purpose of the communication;
  • Ensure that the text is readable and the text/oral communication clear, fluid and concise;
  • Seek to combine different strategies throughout the text/oral communication.

Gender in English

In English, there is a difference between “grammatical gender”, “gender as a social construct” (which refers to the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society at a certain time considers appropriate for men or women) and “sex” as a biological characteristic of living beings.

English has very few gender markers: the pronouns and possessives (he, she, her and his); and some nouns and forms of address. Most English nouns do not have grammatical gender forms (teacher, president), whereas a few nouns are specifically masculine or feminine (actor/actress, waiter/waitress). Some nouns that once ended in -man now have neutral equivalents that are used to include both genders (police officer for policeman/policewoman, spokesperson for spokesman, chair/chairperson for chairman).

A challenge for gender-inclusive communication in English is the use of the masculine form by default. For example, “Every Permanent Representative must submit his credentials to Protocol.”

https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml

 

Not a big deal, i’de say. In fact, I even find myself occasionally using/typing or otherwise dealing with a term ending in man and degendering it since it only makes sense to be clear. I met many salesmen, but it doesn’t take balls to be a salesperson. To cite the observations of one of my favourite cyber security podcast hosts (Steve Gibson) on the topic of ageing technology creating growing vulnerabilities in worldwide cyberinfrastructure, the problem is inertia. No one perceives a problem, so no one feels any need to change.

Which is the problem in both cases. Perception is subjective, particularly from starting points of authority or privilege. People that have never had to deal with sexism or misandry won’t see the issue with gendered unnecessarily gendered language. 

Note: I know that Steve Gibson has run into criticism on at least one occasion when it comes to the issues that this article deals with. However, having heard him for the most part clarify the speech in the next episode, I give him the benefit of the doubt (ignorance vs bigotry).

As niche a reference as the man is, I felt the need to get ahead of this.

1.1 Forms of address

When referring to or addressing specific individuals, use forms of address and pronouns that are consistent with their gender identity.

For United Nations staff members, you may check the intranet or the organizational or staff directory. If the staff member appears as “Ms.”, that is the form of address that should be used for her, and female pronouns are appropriate. Alternatively, and if the situation permits, you may ask the persons you are addressing or writing about what pronoun and form of address should be used for them.

Note for United Nations staff members who draft texts to be translated: If you are the author of a text that is going to be translated, and your text is referring to a specific person, please let translators know what the gender of that person is so they can use appropriate language in their translations. This is crucial for languages such as Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

There should also be consistency in the way women and men are referred to: if one of them is addressed by their name, last name, courtesy title, or profession, the other one should be as well.

Less inclusive: More inclusive:
“Professor Smith (surname and title for a man) and Madeline (first name for a woman) will attend the luncheon.” “Professor Smith and Professor Jones will attend the luncheon (surname and title for both).”

Ms. or Mrs.?

Care should be taken to use the form of address preferred by each individual. However, when that preference is not known, precedence is given to Ms. over Mrs., as the former is more inclusive and can refer to any woman, regardless of marital status

Jordon Peterson would have a shitfit (making a ton of cash in the process. Let’s be honest here!) reading about this horror show. Using a proper pronoun?!

Blasphemy!

Not quite. I’m sure that most people won’t take issue with being misidentified once. Mistakes happen, particularly when meeting for the first time. However, most people can tell the difference between honest mistakes and malice. Again, people are messy so I don’t doubt that some will flip out even if it happens once. But I have yet to meet one of these people in my life. And I have met many different people.

And I am NOT always the most woke behaving person, contrary to what this post may entail. I’m not beyond showing my ass on occasion (in the metaphorical sense, of course).

Anyway, back to the declaration.

 

The confusion between sex and ‘gender’ has contributed to the increasing acceptability of the idea of innate ‘gender identities’, and has led to the promotion of a right to the protection of such ‘identities’, ultimately leading to the erosion of the gains made by women over decades. Women’s rights, which have been achieved on the basis of sex, are now being undermined by the incorporation into international documents of concepts such as ’gender identity’ and ‘Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities (SOGIES)’.

*raises eyebrow*

Race also played a big part in Women’s rights, at least in the first 2 waves. But again, I’ll read on for fear of being seen as mansplaining. 

 

Sexual orientation rights are necessary in eliminating discrimination against those who are sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. Rights relating to sexual orientation are compatible with women’s sex-based rights, and are necessary to enable lesbians, whose sexual orientation is towards other women, to fully exercise their sex-based rights.

However, the concept of ‘gender identity’ makes socially constructed stereotypes, which organize and maintain women’s inequality, into essential and innate conditions, thereby undermining women’s sex-based rights.

For example, the Yogyakarta Principles state that,

“Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.’’ (Yogyakarta Principles: Principles on the application of internationals human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, March 2007).

The right of individuals to dress and present themselves as they choose is compatible with women’s sex-based rights.

However, the concept of ‘gender identity’ has enabled men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ to assert, in law, policies, and practice, that they are members of the category of women, which is a category based upon sex.

And there it is ^^. Members of the category of women, which is a category based on sex.

No, it is not a category that is based on sex. It is a category that is defined by sex, both literally and otherwise.

I can’t help but think of this interview between Neil Degrasse Tyson and one of America’s snarkiest shitheads, Ben Shapiro. Though you can tell that Ben clearly had no intention of even considering the left position in terms of this subject (always chomping at the bit to inject some prefabricated talking point), Tyson was very careful in his responses. Despite being interviewed by someone who has become the master of employing the gish gallop technique, Tyson was never overwhelmed by it. Despite being more focused (in terms of his career) on astrophysics than on gender studies, it was easy to tell who was genuinely scientifically curious, and who had an agenda to push.

In truth, I normally can’t stand Neil Degrasse Tyson. I’ve never quite gotten over his offhanded dismissal of philosophy as a useless subject matter, despite this coming from a man that spends his career staring out of a telescope into space. Way to help feed the world, bud!

Of course, such is a below-the-belt hit from back when I was irritated at the perception of philosophy in the overall academic community. I’ve since largely relaxed my expectations on us mortal humans. We are all prone to bias. Whether that’s prizing the tool of scientism above all metrics seemingly irrationally, or stretching sex definitions far past what is printed in the dictionary.

Nonetheless, the very measured stance on transgenderism and the entire spectrum that makes up the sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and all else related to this topic, was very reasonable. And he is correct that is VERY dangerous to be putting these decisions in the hands of politicians.

Remember that even Obama has quotes against marriage equality from as recently as 2 decades ago. This is a very different era, with a VERY different political climate. Short of packing the US Supreme court to bring some balance once more, there is no way that putting this in the hands of the politicians would turn out well.

It makes me wonder about organizations like the one promoting this declaration. Since the very much right-leaning paradigm we are in now is perfect timing for such a theme, would they be willing to overlook everything else out of pragmatism?

It is potentially an unfair question. But given the situation in which we live, I don’t believe it unreasonable.

Back to the declaration.

 

The CEDAW General Recommendation No. 35 notes that, “General recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention as well as general recommendation No. 33 on women’s access to justice confirms that discrimination against women is inextricably linked to other factors that affect their lives. The Committee’s jurisprudence highlights that these may include…being lesbian.” (II, 12).

The concept of ‘gender identity’ is used to challenge individuals’ rights to define their sexual orientation on the basis of sex rather than ‘gender identity’, enabling men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ to seek to be included in the category of lesbian, which is a category based upon sex. This undermines the sex-based rights of lesbians, and is a form of discrimination against women.

Some men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ seek to be included in the legal category of mother. The CEDAW emphasises maternal rights and the “social significance of maternity’’. Maternal rights and services are based on women’s unique capacity to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal category of mother erodes the social significance of maternity, and undermines the maternal rights for which the CEDAW provides.

 

A lot of this seems to be based on rigid definitions of words, particularly those associated with sex. Aside from “imagine that!”:

1.) When the term man is used above, I question if the context is someone who is unmistakably cyst gender (like myself), or if is all-encompassing to the point of deadnaming trans women.

Since even the most committed shitheads don’t go as far as coming out as lesbian, I am forced to assume that man in this context entails anyone born with a penis. The first question that comes to mind is “How does this discriminate against lesbians?”.

The second is, how would you know?

Let’s play a game called spot the pecker. Of the 3 images below, who has/had a pecker?

   

Fine . . . it’s hard to do this when using the rich and famous as a guideline. Nonetheless, I have my doubts that most people unfamiliar with these celebrities would realize that only one of them is a biological female. This brings me back to asking . . . discrimination against lesbians, how?!

 

2.)

Some men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ seek to be included in the legal category of mother. The CEDAW emphasises maternal rights and the “social significance of maternity’’. Maternal rights and services are based on women’s unique capacity to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal category of mother erodes the social significance of maternity, and undermines the maternal rights for which the CEDAW provides.

The first thing I am curious about is what is entailed by the legal category of mother. A lot, as it turns out. And all depending where you live.

In the Netherlands:

A child’s legal mother is:

  • the woman who gave birth to the child. This also applies if the child was conceived using a donor egg;
  • the woman who adopted the child;
  • the duomoeder (female partner of the birth mother)  who has automatically become the child’s parent, or has acknowledged the child, or has been declared the child’s parent by a court.

https://www.government.nl/topics/family-law/question-and-answer/difference-biological-legal-parenthood

 

In the UK:

being a child’s “mother” or “father” is not necessarily gender specific and that a person’s gender can be different to their status as a parent.

Being a mother, he ruled, is the status given to the person who undergoes the physical and biological process of being pregnant, carrying and giving birth to a child. This has historically, of course, been associated with being female. The judge decided that the definition should remain the same, despite it being medically and legally possible for someone recognised as being male to become pregnant and give birth. On this basis, Mr McConnell should be registered as his son’s mother.

* * *

The judge did however recognise that the ‘social and psychological reality’ of the father’s relationship with his child did not work alongside the law as it stands in this country. He noted the ‘pressing need for Government and Parliament to address square-on the question of the status of a trans-male who has become pregnant and given birth to a child’.

https://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/does-the-legal-definition-of-a-%27mother%27-suit-modern-society

 

In Canada:

The birth mother is the person who goes through the pregnancy and gives birth to the child. The law says she’s the child’s legal mother at birth.

Even if she used someone else’s egg to get pregnant, the woman who gave birth to the child is the birth mother.

But the birth mother stops being the legal mother if:

  • the birth mother was a surrogate and all the legal rules about surrogacy are followed (see Surrogacy, below, for more about this), or
  • the child’s adopted after birth.

https://family.legalaid.bc.ca/children/parenting-guardianship/who-parent

 

In the US, it’s complicated. Ye ole history entangled with the changes and adjustments of modernity makes for a complex tapestry of legal outcomes that only a paralegal or a lawyer would be able to sort out.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/family_law/publications/family-advocate/2021/spring/who-a-parent/

Despite all the international ambiguity in this area, one thing is clear . . . legal motherhood is just as strong as it ever was. Not that this surprises me. The laws in most democratic countries are fluid, and generally able to be updated for changing times. Normal biological mothers are not losing status (or whatever is the claim here). What is changing is how many people the legal definitions encompass by way of addendums.

As for how all of this undermines the social significance of motherhood, I am hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Well, aside from it being a symptom of a cohort paranoid about losing control over a cultural staple that they view as being theirs and theirs alone.

Where have I heard this narrative before?

Back to the declaration.

 

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) states that,

“The explicit recognition and reaffirmation of the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility, is basic to their empowerment’’. (Annex 1, 17)

This right is undermined by the use of ‘surrogate’ motherhood, which exploits and commodifies women’s reproductive capacity. The exploitation and commodification of women’s reproductive capacity also underpins medical research which is aimed at enabling men to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal categories of woman, of lesbian, and of mother threatens to remove all meaning from these categories, as it constitutes a denial of the biological realities on which the status of being a woman, being a lesbian, and being a mother are based.

 

I’m hearing echoes of the traditional marriage proponents that I crossed occasionally in my online adventures of youth. I’m also hearing echoes of the anti-interracial marriage crowd. If these changes are allowed to occur, the meaning (or sanctity) for all is bound to be lost.

And yet, nothing is being lost. Certainly not the meaning (legal or otherwise) of all of the words above. What WILL be lost, however, is the uninclusive wall in which their current definitions cast up in front of modern, perfectly legal familial circumstances.

As for this mention of biological realities . . . I will again refer you to the 4 images above. Which 3 have a/had a pecker? If I show them all to someone that is unfamiliar and they guess incorrectly on all counts, what then for this biological reality? If a biological man can have a conversation with you and you don’t realize it, does this really matter?

 

Organizations that promote the concept of ‘gender identity’ challenge the right of women and girls to define themselves on the basis of sex, and to assemble and organize on the basis of their common interests as a sex. This includes challenging the rights of lesbians to define their sexual orientation on the basis of sex rather than ‘gender identity’, and to assemble and organize on the basis of their common sexual orientation.

Uh . . . wat?!

Remember that gender identity is the lived experience. The concept of gender identity does not challenge any of the rights of women and girls, it expands them. It expands them by making people more comfortable in accepting the fluid and messy nature of human sexuality. Unless the challenge is coming from the flood of new entrants to the GLBTQ+ community that wouldn’t have otherwise felt comfortable with . . . being more comfortable with themselves.

 

In many countries state agencies, public bodies and private organizations are attempting to compel persons to identify and refer to individuals on the basis of ‘gender identity’ rather than sex. These developments constitute forms of discrimination against women, and undermine women’s rights to freedom of expression, freedom of belief, and freedom of assembly.

Men who claim a female ’gender identity’ are being enabled to access opportunities and protections set aside for women. This constitutes a form of discrimination against women, and endangers women’s fundamental rights to safety, dignity and equality.

Article 7 of the CEDAW affirms the importance of measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, and Article 4 affirms the importance of temporary special measures to accelerate de facto equality between men and women. When men claiming female ‘gender identities’ are admitted to women’s participation quotas and other special measures designed to increase women’s participation in political and public life, the purpose of such special measures in achieving equality for women is undermined.

 

I agree. Trans women are women. It’s time to recognize them for the real women that they so clearly are.

I’m confused . . . is this an organization concerned with the human rights of women, or a front for academic TERF’s to use for virtue signalling?

 

Article 10 (g) of the CEDAW calls on States Parties to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to participate actively in sports and physical education. Due to the physiological differences between women and men, the exercise of this right by women requires that certain sporting activities are single-sex. When men claiming female ‘gender identities’ are enabled to participate in women’s single-sex sporting activities, women are placed at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and may be placed at increased risk of physical injury. This undermines women’s and girls’ ability to have the same opportunities as men to participate in sports, and therefore constitutes a form of discrimination against women and girls, which should be eliminated.

It has long been understood in the area of human rights that violence against women and girls is universally endemic, and is one of the crucial social mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women recognizes that,

“Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.’’

This domination and discrimination is based on sex and not on ‘gender identity’.

 

Trans women in sports spell defeat for the other women, you say. Okay. Let’s find some examples. 

Wait . . .

Like so many other trans women in women’s sports, Seplavy has been frustrated by the growing chorus of detractors who claim her very presence in women’s sports puts the future existence of women’s sports at risk. While some trans women are finding competitive success in sports, she knows she will never be the dominant trans female athlete held up by a few loud voices as the harbinger of doom for women’s sports.

Part of Seplavy’s frustration is the first-hand knowledge she has of the rapid decline in performance trans women experience as they transition. She can quantify to some extent the change in her personal performance since transitioning. While competing against men years before her transition, she raced a local course in 2 hours, 20 minutes. Post-transition the same course took her 2:29, over a 6% drop.

Yet the gap would be greater if she were able to compare apples to apples. Racing in her pre-transition 20s and 30, Seplavy gave little care for her body, weighing around 40 pounds more then than she does now. She was, of course, also a decade-plus younger. If she had trained as hard then as she does now, that 2:20 would have been considerably lower, she asserts.

In addition, Seplavy said post-transition training is that much more difficult.

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to athletically train when you’re on hormones,” she said. “As my coach said, I’m anti-doping. I’m putting chemicals in my body that actually detract from athletic performance.”

With all that, of the 100 or so women’s bike races she’s entered in the last three years, she “can’t even remember the last time I legitimately won a bike race.” She said depending on who shows up for a race she may land on a podium (top-three) in an age category.

“I went from being a mediocre dude on a bike to being a mediocre woman on a bike. It’s not like I just changed my gender and my times stayed the same. I have to work that much harder for marginal gain.”

https://www.outsports.com/2019/12/3/20990763/trans-women-athlete-sports-winning-losing-transgender

 

Indeed, she said it herself. She wasen’t the greatest even as a male. But what about an Olympian?

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, one of the first transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics, failed to win a medal Monday in the women’s over-87-kilogram division weightlifting event. It was her first and only event at the Tokyo Games. 

The inclusion of Hubbard, 43, who transitioned in her mid-30s and has competed at the women’s international level since 2017, was divisive, with her supporters welcoming her participation while critics questioned the fairness of transgender athletes competing against cisgender women.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/transgender-olympian-laurel-hubbard-fails-win-medal-olympic-debut-rcna1568

So, what have we learned?

1.) The process of transition actually tends to hinder athletic performance instead of helping it. At least, short of extremely hard work to get back to where you used to be.

Burton’s experience is typical of male-to-female (MTF) transitions, says Robert S. Beil, M.D., of Montefiore Medical Group. “Losing testosterone means losing strength and having less athletic agility,” he explains. “We don’t know if testosterone has a direct effect on muscle strength, but without the testosterone, they are maintained at a lower pace.” This means that women typically need to work harder for longer to maintain muscle mass, whereas men see results more quickly.

Beil adds that men have a higher average blood count rate, and transitioning can “cause the red blood cell counts to go down, because the amount of red blood cells and red blood cell production is influenced by testosterone.” Your red blood cells are integral in carrying oxygen from the lungs to your tissues; people who get blood transfusions often feel a surge of strength and vitality, whereas people with anemia feel weak. This could explain why Burton also reported a decrease in stamina and endurance, particularly when going for a morning run.

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-does-transitioning-affect-transgender-athletes-sports-performance

2.) Trans women don’t dominate in their chosen athletic endeavours as a given, and if they do, they obviously put in the work to get to where they are. This is certainly the case for athletes reaching Olympic-level skills (or otherwise the top tier of their sport of choice).

Trans women do not constitute discrimination when they play on the same teams as other biological women.

Enough of this garbage.

 

The conflation of the category of sex with the category of ‘gender identity’ hinders the protection of women and girls from violence perpetrated against them by men and boys. It increasingly enables men who consider that they have a female ‘gender identity’ to claim access to female single sex victim support services and spaces, as both service users and as service providers. This includes specialist single-sex provisions for women and girls who have been subject to violence, such as shelters and health care facilities. It also includes other services in which single-sex provision is crucial to the promotion of the physical safety, health, privacy, and dignity of women and girls. The presence of men in female single-sex spaces and services undermines the role of these services in protecting women and girls, and could make women and girls vulnerable to violent men who may claim a female ‘gender identity’.

The CEDAW Committee in its General Recommendation 35 underlines the importance of collecting data and compiling statistics relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against women in relation to developing effective measures to prevent and redress such violence.

 

Okay. Examples of trans men causing violent situations? 

I couldn’t find any. What I did find, however, was plenty of documentation about how hard it can be for transgender individuals to get help in domestic violence situations due to their unique needs.

And also this:

 

Statistics documenting transgender people’s experience of sexual violence indicate shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.1 Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse.2 This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization.

                                                                        * * *

Victims

Sexual violence has been found to be even higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, including transgender youth, transgender people of color, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those who are involved in the sex trade. For example, the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff; 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters.3

Perpetrators

Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by any individual; however, it is particularly startling when professionals who are in “helping” roles abuse their power and sexually assault individuals they are supposed to be serving. Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers.4 Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals.5

Hate crimes

Sexual assault perpetrated against transgender individuals may be a component of an anti-transgender hate crime or may be linked to other demographic variables such as race. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):

Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities. . . . Many LGBTQ people also face substantial bias because they belong to other traditionally marginalized groups along other axes of identity such as race, class, incarceration history, immigration status, or ability. . . . membership in more than one traditionally marginalized community can increase targeting for severe violence.6

In the NCAVP 2009 report on hate violence, 50 percent of people who died in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people were transgender women; the other half were male, many of whom were gender non-conforming.7 Sexual assault and/or genital mutilation before or after their murders was a frequent occurrence.

In 2009, 17 percent of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQ people were directed against those who identified themselves as transgender, with most (11 percent of all hate crimes) identifying as transgender women.8 The remainder identified as transgender men, genderqueer, gender questioning, or intersex.

https://ovc.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh226/files/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html

 

That. is. Horrifying.

Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities. . . .

It’s almost as if . . . declarations promoting the sanctity of biological women are incredibly stupid and irresponsible.

 

Though I had initially intended to evaluate the entirety of this declaration of women’s rights, I’ve decided to stop here because the reality of the document is obvious. That the stated goal is equality for all women is a crock of shit.

I certainly hope that all the signatories know what they are getting into.

Maxime Bernier’s Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed

This is a quick follow-up to a post I wrote in May about the lawsuit. Without going into much detail into that one, I found the whole affair to be quite amusing (failed candidate Maxine tarnishing the PC brand on his rapid descent back into obscurity). The affair also served as a vehicle for exploring the issue that is people’s previously publicly shared bad takes coming back to haunt them long after.

In terms of the lawsuit, I had this to say:

In closing, I’d be surprised if this goes anywhere.


As it turns out, I was right (you didn’t need to be a lawyer to figure that out). One can’t help wondering why Bernier’s legal team wouldn’t have advised him of this and saved the court costs. Unless the goal was less about a legal victory than it was tarnishing the Progressive Conservative brand (with the help of the national media) with a giant brown stain.

If that was the case, mission accomplished.

Either way, we will now read from the CBC News coverage of this affair.

 

A defamation lawsuit launched by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier against an outspoken political commentator and strategist has been dismissed by an Ontario court.

Bernier had been attempting to sue Warren Kinsella over comments that painted the PPC leader as a racist, misogynist and antisemitic prior to the 2019 federal election.

Bernier says those descriptions damaged his reputation and subjected him to public scandal and embarrassment.

In a ruling published on Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod dismissed the lawsuit because he said Kinsella would likely have been able to mount a valid defence for his criticisms.

The judge also said any harm caused to Bernier did not outweigh the importance of freedom of expression when discussing politicians and political parties in the public sphere.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bernier-kinsella-lawsuit-dismissed-1.6245137?ref=mobilerss&cmp=newsletter_CBC%20News%20Top%20Headlines%20%20%E2%80%93%20Morning_1613_330745

 

That is an interesting ruling. It sounds like the fact that this was a political race was the factor that tipped the scale (in my opinion, rightly). It raises the question of what may happen in such a scenario outside the realm of politics. For example, if a person’s controversial views (or something else that is damaging to their reputation) are openly publicized without their knowledge, can the ramifications of that constitute harm?

While I am aware of the notion that most people’s censorship problems are less about censorship than they are the consequences of one’s speech, this judgement strikes me as potentially muddying the waters legally.

But I’m not a lawyer. Feel free to share your view in the comments if you wish.

 

Kinsella celebrated the lawsuit’s dismissal on Twitter.

In an interview with CBC News in October, Bernier expressed confidence that his case would succeed.

“Kinsella said that I said that I was a racist and a Nazi and I’m suing him for discrimination. And I will have that decision and I can tell you that it will be positive in our favour,” he said on Oct. 6.

Kinsella’s consulting firm Daisy Group was hired to “seek and destroy” the PPC in the run-up to the 2019 federal election, according to documents seen by CBC News.

A source with knowledge about the project said Kinsella was hired by the Conservative Party of Canada, which wanted to discredit the PPC before its first election as a registered party. Kinsella has not confirmed any direct involvement with the Conservatives and says instead that he was hired by CPC sympathizers.

The PPC failed to win a seat in the 2019 election, capturing 1.6 per cent of the national vote. The party also did not win a seat in the 2021 election, though its share of the popular vote grew to 4.9 per cent.

 

That the share of the PPC popular vote is slowly growing isn’t great (following a pattern of fascist tendencies worldwide). But it’s hard to not consider the party as being a joke. Frankly, a cheap clone of the brand sold by Donald down south.

This is obviously no joke to the Progressive Conservative party, however. After all, it won’t be the left-wing vote that the party will be potentially splitting. Otherwise known as, this isn’t going to be as easy as absorbing the Canadian Alliance Party back in the day. 

 

MacLeod also noted that Bernier and the PPC were being widely criticized within Canadian political discourse during the 2019 election.

“Widespread characterization of Mr. Bernier and the PPC as racist and xenophobic or at least as pandering to those elements of the political spectrum was rife in the media. Comparisons with Donald Trump, [pro-Brexit politician] Nigel Farage or [far-right French politician] Marine LePen were widespread,” MacLeod wrote.

“Mr. Kinsella may have approached his task with particular caustic enthusiasm, but, at worst, Mr. Kinsella’s postings can be seen as a drop of vitriol in a sea of criticism.”


He’s certainly not wrong (I just did it). Not without precedent, however. After all, if the whole thing couldn’t have been backed up, Benier would have lost the suit!

Either way, as a leftist, this can only be a good thing. If the Progressive Conservatives keep being dragged into the PPC dumpster fire, running against them from the left will be a breeze.

Things That Annoy Me – Part 23

107.) Easy Tear Packing Tape

Is it me, or is this stuff only easy to tear when you don’t actually WANT it to tear?

Try as I may, it won’t rip when I want it to. But break in half when I’m trying to peel it (causing the waste of an inch or so as I again re-align the tap as a whole) . . . an almost inevitability!

Fuck you, easy tear packing tape.

108.) Useless Voicemails

Few things drive me more bonkers than when someone feels it pertinent enough to call me and leave a voicemail, but they don’t actually tell me why they are calling.

“Hey _______, can you give me a call? I really need to talk to you. Thanks.”

Okay, talk to me about what? Something I need to do right away? Or something that can sit at the back of the priorities pile until further notice?

Since the people that engage in this behaviour tend to fancy themselves as self-important, I tend to end up placing these requests at the back of the to-do pile anyway. Another reason for this is that it is never ever about helping me out (“I have the money I owe you!”). It is ALWAYS something to be done for them (“Can you lend me $10?”). 

If your gonna call me about something pertinent, tell me WHY it is pertinent. I don’t have the time or the patience to stroke your ego when all you want is $20.

This leads nicely to my next entry.

109.) Unnecessarily Lengthy Phonecalls

I phoned you to ask a question or otherwise complete some task that should not take over 5 minutes (often much less). I should not have to block out 45 minutes or more just because you don’t grasp the concept of other people having a limited amount of time to chat. This ties nicely into the last one because it is often the same people that do this.

In all honesty, I hate phone calls to start with. Considering how much time I spent tieing up the landline as a teenager, this is a relatively new development. Nonetheless, there is a much more efficient method available for the communication of minor bits and pieces of information than the telephone call . . . it’s called texting. Or Facebook messenger.

That I now have to set aside 45 minutes to reply to a voicemail is thus highly irritating. Which serves as a nice segway to the next gripe. 

110.) Complete Disregard For Your Time

 Sometimes after receiving a completely useless voicemail and finding a block of 45 minutes to set aside for such a conversation, you are faced with the probing conversation highlights and questions.

“You don’t normally call back the same day, is everything all right? What did you do today? Were you working? Were you out with your dad? Are you sure there is nothing wrong because it seemed a bit like you were avoiding me”

We all have to accept that everyone has flaws (as they must also do so for us). But for the love of nothing, enough with the questions just because I didn’t drop everything and immediately prioritize whatever the hell you called about.
Maybe there were other matters to attend to. Maybe I was not in the headspace to muster the amount of energy required to deal with the situation. Loved one or not, some people (mainly older types who seem to think that they are owed the world) seem completely incapable of fathoming how much strain they often put on people around them without a second thought.

Many might be prone to call that the typical rantings of a weak snowflake millennial.

To that I say, some of you old fogies REALLY have no concept of how much leeway and privilege the world has given you. And I’m not just talking about money and wealth, either. I’m talking about the freedom to continually spew and spread all manner of false, outdated and otherwise wrong information without remorse.
Whether it’s refusing to listen to my advice that you should NOT fully discharge your iPhone every time (battery technology has changed, making that process VERY BAD for the batteries long term health!), dead-naming transgender individuals or spewing racially tinged rhetoric about some other race, conversing with you ageing boomers can sometimes take A LOT of energy. For a cohort that can’t seem to shut up about Cancel Culture, they sure don’t seem to have any hesitation with saying anything that comes to mind.

Then there is the drop-in. Sometimes the problem is so important that they can’t wait for you to set aside a timeslot for them to see you, and they instead show up at your front door. Though I can categorize the rest of the annoying dealings of this cohort into it is what it is category and move on with my day, the drop-in tends to flat out piss me off. Though I know that the person sees nothing wrong with the gesture:

1.) As a quite introverted personality, even the sound of a ringing telephone is often intrusive, let alone the sound of an unexpected knock at the door or ring of the doorbell.

2.) Showing up at my door tells me that you don’t care what is or isn’t going on in my life at that moment, because your inquiry/problem is more important.

As much irritation as these certain sets of folks cause me in life, I doubt they will ever change. Because I doubt that either of these people could wrap their head around the fact that there is even a problem with this behaviour, let alone that they ought to lay off. I suspect it to be the ways of a different era and generation, despite the younger ones doing things differently.

111.) Covidiots and Vaccine Hesitation

I already wrote about this topic years ago after some previously well-controlled eradicated contagions began making a comeback in anti-vaccinated circles. This one really rubbed me the wrong way since the worst effects of the diseases were often being seen in the unvaccinated children of often times vaccinated parents. Say what I will about the previous generation in other areas, at least most of their children grew up immune to measles and whooping cough. Even if a segment of their kids would grow up to listen to the god-awful nonsense of Janny Mcarthy, Robert F Kenedy Jr and other anti-vax windbags.

112.) Facebook Goes Meta

Recently, Facebook Incorporated decided to rebrand and restructure itself. Instead of just being Facebook, owner of Instagram, WhatsUp and a handful of other apps that are increasingly gaining a sullied reputation, we now have Meta. Just as Google was spun off into a subsidiary of the parent company Alphabet some years ago, this is what Facebook has also done with its brands. Complete with a douchy name.

Companies tend to rename themselves for a select few reasons. Sometimes a name change reflects new business ambitions, as when Apple released the iPhone and stopped calling itself Apple Computer. Other times, it signals a corporate restructuring, as when Google renamed itself Alphabet; Larry Page became the CEO of Alphabet, not Google, clarifying his leadership beyond just search. Other times, a company seeks to distance itself from a sullied brand, as when cigarette-maker Philip Morris renamed itself Altria in 2001.

Facebook’s rechristening as Meta has some elements of all three. The company wants to define itself as a “metaverse” company, not just a maker of social media products. And Zuckerberg wants more of a hand in those new pursuits, rather than overseeing the Facebook app. The company also seeks a way out of the past few years of everyone dunking on Facebook, a name that’s become synonymous with mistrust and skepticism (not to mention conspiracy theories and genocide).

https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-name-change-meta/

 

Speaking of douchy . . . what in the fuck is a metaverse company?!

Metaverse is a speculative future iteration of the Internet part of shared virtual reality, often as a form of social media.[1] The metaverse in a broader sense may not only refer to virtual worlds operated by social media companies but the entire spectrum of augmented reality.[2] The term arose in the early 1990s, and has come to be criticised as a method of public relations building using a purely speculative yet still “over-hyped”[3] concept based on existing technology.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaverse

There is nothing like seeing black mirror episodes slowly come to life in the most painfully benign way possible.

Then again, such is the way of existence, isn’t it?

We all live in fear of the big IT that will spell the end. The asteroid, the virus, the EMP knocking out the continental electrical grid, the nuclear war. When in reality, the shift is far more gradual than sudden. Today, Facebook is threaded into the fabric of online life for most of us. In a decade, Meta might be a big part of whatever comes to constitute life as we will then know it.

Meta. Alphabet. Odeo. Tencent. Bytedance. Advance Publications. Snap Incorporated.

You may not know many (or ANY) of the companies above, but you can be certain that most of them know at least a little something about you. And that is just social media.

Amazon. Microsoft.  ContextLogic Incorporated. Alibaba Group Holding Limited.

As a single cog, I am but a ripple in this tumultuous sea of evil. A raindrop in the ocean, if you will. Even this blog can’t escape, being hosted on a platform that plays host to a huge number of the internet’s websites (455 million, or over 62%). This monstrosity of content is known to the business world as Automattic.

Either way, the road to totalitarianism by corporate takeover is WAY too boring. At least Sam Esmail of Mr. Robot fame had the right idea in basing the show’s antagonist corporate entity E-corp (aka Evil Corp) loosely on the infamous Enron. Since it’s much easier to sell a huge cyber battle with Evil Corp than it would be to sell one with Alphabet, Tencent, Amazon or Meta.

Meta . . . more like Beta.

113.) Enough With The Legal Weed Limitations

The last time I put one of these multiple-choice rants together, I told employers who expect employees who push brooms, tap on keyboards or otherwise mindlessly toil away for WAY too little pay to go fuck themselves if they demand said employees to pass a drug test. I mean, imagine how controlling and narcissistic you have to be to pay a pittance and still think you own an employee for the entire duration of their employment.

I hope these managers sit on a cactus. After all, it would at least provide a reason for being such a prick. A thorn up the ass!

Todays rant, however, lays with the politicians. Not just the politicians, though. Also, doctors, police officers, guidance councillors, parole officers and everyone else whose largely uninformed opinions are bottlenecking the implementation of the legal cannabis market in this nation (Canada). After all, who else but the “What a terrible idea! Do you realize how POWERFUL today’s cannabis is?!” crowd would think that a 30 gram daily limit on cannabis was necessary. This, whilst a minor can purchase 216mg’s of caffeine through energy drink 6 packs at any convenience store or supermarket.

The sooner dumb and easily manipulated boomers are not in control of this stuff, the better.

Edible Marijuana Imitating Major Snack Brand Packaging – Really?!

As a longtime advocate for the personal freedom of intoxication for every adult, the idiotic actions of those within this culture sometimes forces me to shake my head. What the HELL are you thinking?!

But, before we get that far, let’s explore the origins of how I first learned of this phenomenon. Covered in the October 27th (2021) edition of the very informative Marijuana Moment email newsletter, the story covered a warning put out by the Auturnys Generals in several states. Parents were advised to watch for highly deceptive (and highly potent) cannabis edibles disguised as typical snack brands. Disguised may not be the right word here, but some of the products would certainly be very easy to mistake.

I’ll start by quoting the warning as published on the webpage of Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge.

 

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning the public about the dangers of cannabis edibles and hemp derivatives in packaging designed to look like well-known snack foods and candy. These products are unregulated, illegal, and may be extremely dangerous. As Halloween approaches, parents should be aware that these look-alike products are being offered for sale online. 

“The unregulated look-alike products are dangerous and marketed to kids and young adults and when consumed by a child can have 120 times the potency of the maximum legal adult serving,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If anyone sells these products to Arkansans I will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law. If you see these look-alike products for sale, report them to my office immediately.”

These products may contain high concentrations of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and if eaten by children, can lead to an accidental overdose. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the most common overdose incidents among children involve ingestion of edible cannabis foods, and such overdoses are on the rise. In the first nine months of 2020, 80 percent of calls related to marijuana edibles to the Poison Control Center were for pediatric exposure. In the first half of 2021 alone, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports poison control hotline calls have received an estimated 2,622 calls for services related to young children ingesting cannabis products.

If a child were to eat the entire bag, he or she would be consuming 120 times the maximum legal adult serving.  Individuals and companies responsible for putting these edibles within the reach of children should carefully reconsider whether they choose to continue to profit from illegal look-alike cannabis edibles sales. Sellers may be subject to legal action and substantial civil penalties under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Like any other drug, adults should take strong precautions to ensure that children do not have access to any products containing cannabis. Products advertising cannabis should not be purchased online through direct shipment platforms. Parents are encouraged to speak with their children, including young adults, and provide age-appropriate guidance about the dangers look-alike products pose. Symptoms of THC overdose include respiratory distress, loss of coordination, lethargy, and loss of consciousness.  If you suspect your child has eaten food containing high amounts of THC and become sick, call the Arkansas Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Consumers who encounter look-alike cannabis edible products are encouraged to file a consumer complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (501) 682-2007 or OAG@Arkansasag.gov.

 

Assuming that this is accurate and not overhyped, I can certainly see why people would be worried.

I recently embraced Canadas legal Cannabis scene by trying out a small 10mg THC/CBD edible in its entirety. Though I thought the two 5mg THC experiences I had before (involving 2 low-dose cannabis beverages) had prepared me, I was certainly surprised at just how big of a difference there was in the experiences. It took 40 minutes to kick in, but god damn . . . respect the power of the edible!

Knowing that I was expecting and fully anticipating getting stoned and still got taken by surprise, I can’t even imagine what 600mg’s of no doubt pure THC distillate would do to someone unsuspecting. Let alone a child.

But like I said earlier, this is assuming this is not being overhyped as an issue. Is edible cannabis the new razer blade in the treats for panic-prone parents?

One of the first sources we run into is good ole Snopes.

 

We didn’t find a single case of a person purposefully giving children marijuana edibles on Halloween in an attempt to harm them.

                                                                                                                                             * * *

This warning — that parents should check their children’s Halloween candy because strangers may intentionally be trying to harm them with marijuana edibles disguised as Sour Patch Kids, Cheetos, and SweeTarts — has been repeated by parents and police stations across the country since at least 2010.

But is there any truth to these rumors, or is this just another Halloween urban legend? In this article, we’ll take a look at how these rumors started, and try to determine if children are really in danger of eating tainted candy on Halloween.

Decades of Rumors

The claim that kids are in danger of receiving marijuana-tainted candy on Halloween has been around as long as marijuana-infused candy has been around. 

Throughout their history, marijuana edibles have largely been homemade concoctions, starting around 2000 B.C., when cannabis, deemed one of five sacred plants in The Veda, was mixed together with nuts and spices to make a drink called Bhang. Edibles first gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s, thanks in part to a “Haschich Fudge” recipe that was published in “The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.”


Interestingly enough, the brand of chocolate that I tried was called Bhang. If you notice the packaging, there is almost no way to mistake this for a non-THC candy bar. Though not visible in the image, the resealable packaging is also fairly difficult to open once the seal is torn open. All of the legal products in Canada are well marked for what they are and the THC/CBD content contained therein.

 

 

Chowhound described Toklas’ recipe as a “raw granola bar made with black peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, de-stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds, peanuts, and sativa cannabis, which is pulverized and combined with a cup of sugar dissolved in a large serving of butter.”

Edibles have come a long way since that raw granola bar, but when California became the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, the edible was still largely relegated to baked goods and tinctures that could be added to tea. In other words, products that couldn’t be mistaken for Halloween candy.

But by 2010, medical edibles (dubbed medibles) were being advertised in newspapers.

And as these first marijuana candies appeared, so did warnings that unscrupulous candy givers would be handing them out on Halloween in an attempt to harm children. In October 2010, after the Los Angeles Police Department confiscated various THC-infused candies and snacks from local dispensaries, and a few days before the city voted on legalizing marijuana (which did not pass at the time), the police issued a warning that these marijuana edibles could get mixed up in unsuspecting children’s Halloween candy. 

We searched for cases of children accidentally eating marijuana edibles that were slipped into the Halloween candy for every year since 2010, and while we found multiple warnings during this timeframe, we didn’t find a single case of a person purposefully giving children marijuana edibles in an attempt to harm them.

Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, said:

“Children are not at risk for contaminated treats … For one thing, edible marijuana products are very expensive and this would be a very expensive prank.”


“My research stretches back to 1958 … I have been unable to find any evidence that any child has been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating.”

 

The quote from professor Joel was my very first thought, to be honest. At least in Canada, the average price for A 10g chocolate serving (about the size of the average Halloween candy bar) is $4.99 EACH, with packages of 10 gummies and other candies averaging at about $7.99 each. For every 1 criminally offensive THC candy, you can get a package of 50 to 100 genuine Halloween candies.

And not look like a fucking idiot. 

I guess we are dealing strictly in the realm of hyperbole once again.

 

Halloween candy has been the subject of dozens of rumors over the years. This rumor, in many ways, is simply a rehashed version of an urban legend that stretches back decades when parents feared that unsavory characters might slip poison into their holiday treats. 

This urban legend reappears in a new form from time to time. In 2000, police worried that drug-laced suckers were being given to children, in 2015, rumors circulated that people were placing ecstasy-laced candy in Halloween bags, and in 2019, people feared heroin that was disguised as SweeTarts

These urban legends can generally be traced back to a case in the 1970s when a father was convicted of murder after they added cyanide to Pixie Stix and then placing them with his son’s Halloween candy.

You can read more about some of the stories and hoaxes in our previous article, Poisoned Halloween Candy

A Morsel of Truth?

During our research, we found only two cases that somewhat resembled this rumor, although neither case involved an ill-intentioned neighbor intentionally drugging a child. 

In 2019, police in Nova Scotia reported that a parent had found a cannabis edible in their children’s candy. The police report does not provide any information about how the edible got into the candy or even whether or not the edible contained TCH (no testing on the product was done). The report also states that that this child was trick-or-treating in a group but no other child in this group received such a product. Lastly, the child never ate the candy. 

In other words, there’s no evidence that this marijuana edible was intentionally placed in a child’s Halloween candy in an attempt to harm them. We reached out to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but have not heard back. As far as we can tell, nobody was ever arrested over this incident. 

In 2018, five children in Arizona were sickened after a 12-year-old accidentally brought marijuana gummies to school. While these drugs reportedly came from a family’s bowl of Halloween candy, this incident took place in February (four months after the holiday) and it’s not clear how the drugs got in the bowl. 

An Increase in Accidental Poisonings

While we were unable to find a single instance of a stranger intentionally attempting to drug a child by handing out marijuana edibles on Halloween, there have been instances of children accidentally consuming marijuana edibles.

Julie Weber, the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ Board President and Managing Director of the Missouri Poison Center, told us that the “accessibility of these edible products” has lead to an increase in incidents of children mistakenly eating a marijuana edible. These incidents, however, are not isolated to Halloween. 

Weber said:

“Incidents of children mistakenly ingesting marijuana edibles are increasing. Often, edible forms of marijuana can look like treats: baked goods, beverages, or candies. Young children may not know the difference between a candy gummy bear and a marijuana edible. It is the accessibility of these edible products in the home leading to the increase in exposure noted by the US poison centers. This increase in cases has been identified as more states legalize the use of both recreational and medical marijuana. The increased exposure cases are not isolated to Halloween.

 

Given the panic-prone nature of the American public (and how real incidents tend to inspire tall tales in the cultural zeitgeist in the ensuing months, years and decades), none of this is really surprising. Nor would the fact the an uptick of THC poisonings no doubt caused by idiots not being careful with their potent edibles play right into the fear that is often prominent in American culture.

I can’t even rightfully say American Culture since I remember my parents checking our candies for things like razor blades and tampered packaging. I even remember things like fruits and baked goods being automatically trashed since they couldn’t be trusted.

An amusing assumption to think of now since it’s a lot harder to hide tamper attempts on an orange, Apple or Banana than it is to glue or rubber cement a candy bar wrapper shut.

But, such is the strength of this stuff. It spread far and wide even before social media connected every corner of the world.

 

Labeling Laws

One misconception that stems from this rumor is that marijuana edibles are indistinguishable from regular candy. But that’s not the case.

While states set their own laws in regards to how to sell and package marijuana products, generally speaking, legally purchased marijuana products are required to have labeling that identifies their THC content and also must be packaged in child resistant packaging. 

Leafly, a marijuana news website, writes: “Proper cannabis labeling and packaging is a crucial component to staying in compliance with state guidelines. Cannabis companies must ensure that their packages are tamper-proof, child-proof, and within accordance of their local laws.” 

 

Which is perfectly logical.

 

Are Strangers Giving Marijuana Edibles to Kids on Halloween?

We have not been able to find a single incident of a child eating a marijuana edible that they were given by a nefarious stranger on Halloween. While marijuana edibles can truly resemble candy, and while there have been cases of children mistakenly eating marijuana edibles, these cases typically involve parents or other family members who left their stashes within the reach of children, and not random strangers who are out to do their children harm. 

Or, in Halloween parlance, the danger is coming from inside the house. 

 

So, we can move this one to the unlikely category and call it a day. If this is of enough concern to inspire fear inside of you, make sure that the potent contents of both your medicine cabinet and your liquor cabinet are getting as much attention as this largely non-existent threat.

Despite coming to this conclusion, I do still wonder about the faux-snack treats that we were warned of by various AG’s in the US. Is this also hyperbole?
Since this topic also came up on The Daily Show with Trever Noah recently (I saw the clip on Snapchat yesterday), it makes me very curious, since the show didn’t look all that in-depth into the phenomenon. It was an absurdity of our day-to-day reality, and the show used it as such.

Which makes me wonder:

1.) Who is manufacturing these faux-branded THC treats?

2.) Why the hell are they not being sued into the ground by Kraft, Mondelez, Pepsi-co and every other multi-national corporation of which they are blatantly infringing patents in the worst way possible?

The answer surprises me. Knowing what I do about counterfeit overseas manufacturing and 3ed shifts, I figured this was yet another case of overseas manufactured goods sneaking in via the online retail market. Not unlike the endless game of whack-a-mole that government regulators worldwide must engage in to keep up with the constant flux of synthetic cannabinoids and other compounds.

While the packaging does indeed seem to originate from overseas manufacturing sources, the factories appear to be only making the packages. They instead appear to be sold online to dealers within places like the US, of whom pack their own presumably homemade edibles inside. Another possibility is the addition of THC compounds to real (otherwise THC-free products) like candies and chips. Why else would many of these packages mimic real products if not for this purpose?

If you’ve bought or been offered black market edibles over the past year, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Medicated Nerds Rope or Stoney Patch Kids. If you haven’t heard of them, check the local news stations and federal health warnings. From California to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota, and everywhere in between, law enforcement has seized thousands upon thousands of identically labeled Nerds Rope and Stoney Patch edibles. So how are dealers in every corner of the U.S. getting the same product, and how do they look so much like real Nerds Ropes and Sour Patch Kids?

The answer goes back to those same bootleg packaging sellers who make thousands of fake BackPackBoyz mylar bags. Instead of popular weed brands, though, these bags are marked with fake Nerds Rope or Sour Patch Kids candy graphics and labeled with arbitrarily high THC quantities—as high as 400 milligrams. With those ready-to-seal bags easily available online, all dealers need to do is unwrap bulk quantities of real Nerds Rope or Sour Patch candies, spray them with cheap THC distillate, and repackage them in the pre-labeled edible bags. In most cases, the THC distillate is the same illicit pot product that is used in the counterfeit vape cartridges that sparked a health crisis last year.

 

1.) While I did know about all the commotion surrounding vapes, I didn’t realize that many of them were counterfeit. Though the problem appears to have intensified last year, the issue of counterfeit vapes appears to have been prevalent long before. The only way of avoiding such counterfeits appears to be purchasing from only reputable sources.

Be careful out there.

2.) So it is just real food products getting tampered with.

 

Since eating edibles doesn’t affect the lungs, it is unlikely tainted distillate edibles will result in another health crisis, but the facade of professional packaging hides product of uncertain and widely varying potency and potentially unsafe manufacturing and handling techniques. The knockoff edible market is so big that Nerds Rope parent company Ferrara Candy Company has made public statements distancing itself from and rebuking the popular black market product. At the end of the day, there is nothing stopping dealers from repackaging plain candy in edible-labeled bags without any THC added at all.

 

The article that I opened this post with (along with the many local news stories covering it)  used the word unregulated many times in describing this industry. And this is certainly the case. But it strikes me that the answer to this problem (or at least a good part of it) is starring all of these people right in the face.

Though I am not sure how prevalent (if at all) this sort of thing is in Canada, it strikes me that it would be less so just on account of the legal status of Cannabis on a national level. There are no provinces and territories in which cannabis remains illegal. As such, few (if any) places exist wherein it makes any sense to risk purchasing this questionable stuff over easily available legal varieties. After all, you can pay for legal cannabis by credit card and have it delivered to your house!

In the US, I can’t help thinking that this is going to be a problem until cannabis is fully legalized at the federal level. Though there will no doubt still be individual States that turn their back on such a ruling by disallowing dispensaries by way of  local and regional plebiscites, this won’t stop mail order or otherwise out of state purchased cannabis. After all, federal law is the law of the land. 
This should happen anyway so that the US cannabis industry can meaningfully access the national and international banking system. It’s ridiculous that legitimate businesses still don’t have the same banking access afforded to a newly opened liquor store or pharmacy.

This is not to say that bringing the cannabis industry above board once and for all will totally eliminate the black market. After all, even in a nation that has arguably become the worldwide gold standard for legalization (Canada), the implementation still has its problems.
One of them is that the legislation has all the hallmarks of a law passed by people that don’t understand cannabis. That is to say, THC is still treated very differently than pretty much any other drug available to lawfully purchase.

In Canada, the limits are thus:

The possession limits in the Cannabis Act are based on dried cannabis. Equivalents were developed for other cannabis products to identify what their possession limit would be.

One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 15 grams of edible product
  • 70 grams of liquid product
  • 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
  • 1 cannabis plant seed

This means, for example, that an adult 18 years of age or older, can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis.

https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/

 

While a quick read of this by most people (including me in the past) would not reveal any problems, I found myself running into this limit recently. Not in terms of fresh cannabis or edibles, instead in terms of liquid products. I recently purchased 5 cans of low-dose liquid products and 10g’s of chocolate. Though I wanted to purchase 7 cans of liquid product, I was limited to the 5 in that order. The issue I faced was in how the liquids are measured.

While a daily purchase limit of 30 grams per day may not strike most people as problematic (and I found it pretty funny to be hitting the limit as a beginner experimenting in low dosages), the absurdity comes in the context in relation to other easily available drugs. 

We will start with caffeine. Anyone (even a minor) can walk into almost any convenience store or supermarket and purchase a 4 or 6 pack of highly caffeinated canned energy drinks without issue.
Moving on to alcohol, 6, 12 and 24 packs are the standard packaging sizes for beer (with no limit on the number one can purchase) at one time. Spirits can range in size from 300ml and under to 1.5L and higher (again, without any purchase limits). To use a personal anecdote from my life, I was able to purchase a 24 pack of Rockstar Vodka along with 24 cans of beer in preparation for a birthday party when I was 18. The only thing asked of me was my ID and my debit card.

Whether or not one ever should find themselves running into the 30-gram daily cannabis purchase limit is arguably beside the point of why said limit exists in the first place. Since cannabis legalization is new ground for everyone involved, however, we can hope that this is just the beginning. The product of a justice system and society still hesitant to a substance that was demonized for the better part of all of our lives.

But, it’s time to bring this to a close.

Canada – Lifting (or at least, raising) the arbitrary cannabis purchase limits can only help to eliminate their bottleneck factor in terms of bringing long-time black market users over to the legal side. Another way to help achieve this would be to relax the arbitrary caps on potency.

United States – Start by legalizing cannabis (thus rendering the creation of faux-edibles and the purchase of synthetic cannabis as largely obsolete). After that,  join Canada in sorting out the rest of the specifics.

The Holiday Shopping Season Is Coming . . . But The Shelves Are Empty + An Alternative To Rampant Holiday Consumerism

Today, we will explore an article outlining the coming supply shortages anticipated for this Christmas holiday shopping season. Following this will be an idea for an alternative to the shop till you drop nature of what the modern-day holiday season has become.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/10/21/start-holiday-shopping-early-2021/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The supply chain meltdown will make holiday shopping messy this year. Here’s what you need to know.

Expect delays, limited inventory and higher prices but, most importantly, start early

The pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers.

Two months out from the peak holiday shopping season, consumers are encountering empty storeshelves, rising prices and shipping delays that seem to stretch into oblivion. Container ships are clogging ports, awaiting cargo or unable to get past the gridlock to unload their goods. Some factories have gone dark, lacking raw materials and hands to run machines.

Shoppers are beginning to fret: A third of the more than 5,700 people recently surveyed by Oracle, which provides cloud services for such large retailers as Prada and Office Depot, worry they won’t get everything on their wish lists and will be paying more when they do. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a holiday shopping nightmare.

 

That is interesting wording, considering that I was under the impression that holiday shopping tended to be a nightmare for most people, supply chain restrictions or not. Hence the reason why stress and substance abuse tends to skyrocket during the lead-up and the peak of the holiday season.

But I digress . . .

 

Why are so many store shelves already empty?

The coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc on global supply chains since it began nearly two years ago, with suppliers and retailers wading through a sea of challenges — keeping the virus out of offices and factories, navigating shutdowns and business restrictions. Then there’s the steady rise of raw materials prices and skyrocketing shipping costs. The nation also is short on truck drivers and warehouse workers.

The tangle of pressures has driven inflation to a 13-year high of 5.4 percent, forcing many companies to pass costs along to consumers.

Problems have been compounded by a labor shortage that has intensified in recent months, as more warehouse and retail workers become part of “The Great Resignation” — a phenomenon driven by pandemic burnout and an existential reassessment of life and work. A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, Labor Department data shows, and big box stores and local retailers alike are struggling to fill positions and store shelves.

All the while, demand is on the rise:Retail sales rose unexpectedly the past two months despite a resurgence in covid cases brought on by the delta variant, which had a dampening effect on business activity. Last month, U.S. retail sales hit $625.4billion as consumers flocked to shops, bars and restaurants, federal data show. Gasoline sales were up 38 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

 

This is certainly an interesting trifecta of factors.

A pandemic still wreaking havoc with production and shipping around the world. A revolting labour force fed up with putting their lives on the line for consumers and employers that don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves or the bottom line. And an energetic newly released public that is anxious to live it up in a way they haven’t been able to since 2009.

Virus + Fatige + Excitment = Pandamonium.

 

Holiday retail sales are projected to climb 7 to 9 percent, according to Deloitte’s annual forecast, to as much as $1.3 trillion this year.

Marwan Forzley, chief executive of Veem, a payments platform that works with thousands of U.S. retailers, said the outlook is promising given that more people are comfortable shopping in stores and dining out amid rising vaccination rates.

“We can expect this to continue into the winter months,” Forzley said in commentary emailed to The Washington Post.

Do I really need to start shopping now?

If you have specific gifts — especially trendy ones — in mind, yes.

Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a supply chain solutions company, said that consumers should plan to get their shopping done well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday window if they want gifts to arrive on time.

He pointed to the record backups at U.S. ports due to covid protocols and labor shortages, adding that the delay of raw materials will cascade through supply chains and create shortages across many product categories.

 

Good luck, folks. You are already too late!

 

President Biden recently called on the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port, to stay open round-the-clock to ease some kinks in the supply chain. The White House even weighed tapping the National Guard to fill in the gaps across the country’s sprawling network of ports, planes, ships and trucks, The Post has reported.

Recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service will lengthen delivery times. On Oct. 1, the agency implemented new “service standards,” or the amount of time it says it should take for a piece of mail to get delivered, and raised prices for a variety of services.

“All of the major carriers — USPS, UPS, FedEx — are not guaranteeing any specific delivery times this year, so absolutely shop ahead as much as possible,” Kapczynski told The Post in an email.

 

Though this is strictly speculation on my part, I have to wonder how much of the current situation with the USPS is rooted in the sabotage efforts of its Post Master General under the previous administration. Though I don’t doubt that Biden stopped the bleeding, did he reverse the changes (such as the removal of sorting equipment)?

 

Holiday shopping season has been starting earlier and earlier since 2014, when big box stores first opened their doors for Thanksgiving Day deals, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser for the NPD Group.

This year, more than half of shoppers surveyedplan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day, according to NPD’s Holiday Retail Outlook.

Consumers are expected to spend $785, on average, in 2021, which is higher than either of the past two years, according to NPD. The uptick reflects how they have “settled into the current phase of pandemic life,” Cohen wrote in commentary Wednesday, “and are balancing a new sense of comfort alongside remaining concerns.”

Early shoppers plan to spend more money, and have already started picking up consumer electronics, clothes and gift cards, according to NPD’s research. Retailers have catered their events and deals to the early birds: Amazon started hawking its “Deals for Days” promotion in early October. Nordstrom is opening its in-store holiday shops on Oct. 18. Lowe’s is having its “Season of Savings” kickoff on Oct. 28 and wheeling out its Christmas trees and twinkly lights in November.

Anxiety about delays and scarce inventory will motivate many shoppers to “grab what they want when they see it,” Cohen wrote, “instead of waiting for better deals later in the season.”
I will end my quotation of the article here since you know all that you need to know already. That is, if you thought that holiday shopping was stressful in a normal year, this year will be WAY worse.
 
This brings me to the amount that the average consumer is predicted to spend during this round of holiday-related consumption . . . $785. And this is only the average. Early shoppers are spending even more as retailers push the start of the holiday season further and further back in the year.
Given the state of the supply of many items, it would not surprise me to see scalpers buying up trendy items and scalping them on auction and marketplace sites for WAY more than their original MSRP in the coming weeks and months (this became a major issue for the tech industry recently). For the truly desperate, this can only drive the $785 figure even higher.  
 
It makes me wonder how many people actually want to participate in the whole gift exchange thing, to begin with.
 
This is where I propose my alternative.
 
Consider the gifts you received throughout the Christmas holidays in the past few years (if not indefinitely). How many have you actually made use of? How many ended up being tucked away in a cupboard, drawer or basement? And after this stage in the process, how many of these items end up being thrown in the trash due to non-use?
Sure, things can and do get donated. But given the glut of stuff that such organizations always have coming in, what is the chance that your likely outdated product is going to make the cut?
How many Christmas gifts have you used to the point wherein they actually get disposed of due to wearing out?
 
Then there is the alleged faux pas that is the re-gifting of undesirable items. How often have you simply passed on an item the next year (or at the next holiday function)? How many items end up in this endless loop before finally getting trashed?
 
Break the cycle of perpetually spending money we don’t have to buy crap that people around us don’t need. Instead, consider how that money could be better utilized.

For example, instead of loading up on consumer products, why not write a few cheques to charitable organizations that could use the cash?
If you like, you can tailor these donations to the interests and/or preferences of those for whom you would be buying gifts for.

If your family is one that actually enjoys one another’s presence more than once or twice a year, what about using that cash to purchase some activities that everyone can enjoy and that promote even more gathering opportunities?
For example, a pool or shuffleboard table or a videogame console. Such an investment can provide your immediate family entertainment at any time, and provide entertainment for family gatherings and party guests for years to come.
 
And of course, there is the option of not spending anything at all. Your reasons don’t matter since it’s a personal choice.
 
Not everyone will be on board with such a move. Once your new view of the holidays is known to your wider circle of friends and family, reactions may vary from “Whatever, Mr. Grinch!” to “We are no longer friends!”. Nonetheless, I can assure you that this new rocky social reality is still better for all involved than the old status quo.
Sure you will have your mindless critics that have likely never put a second thought into any of their collective traditions or practices. But I sense that this should be a short-lived problem. Give it a year or 2, and most should just accept your choice. After all, boiled right down, it’s just the mutual expectation of wanting nothing, and expecting nothing in return.

As for those that do still take issue . . . tell them where to go. I get that this can be much easier said than done (particularly in a familial context), but chances are if the person is selfish enough to take issue with this, then this is likely not the only area of your life that they are causing trouble in. Existence is too short to live with petty BS like that.
 
But overall, no matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to enjoy yourself and have a good time. Whether that means meeting with the family, having a quiet day by yourself, or making it magical for the kids, try and stay positive.
 
I used to be one of those people that dreaded the period between around October 31st right through to the 24th (if not January 1st) because of all the Christmas overload. Since my career has primarily been within the service and retail industries, much of this animosity was on account of the nastiness of everyday people in the lead-up to the big day. Never have I met a more miserable human being than the fellow dawning a badge proclaiming Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas!! .

Whatever happened to Merry Christmas?! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
 
Then there are the “It’s not the same as when I was a kid!” crowd. People who decided that it’s all changed WAY too much, and therefore they will inflict their holiday misery on everyone else around them. There is no looking for silver linings or making the best of it, Christmas is RUINED! It may be only November 5th, but they have decided that the whole thing is a loss because they are not in the christmas spirit
 
I get that. The holidays lost their magic way back when I was a teenager, in large part due to my then acceptance of my atheist stance. From grade 9 throughout the rest of high school, Christmas was a time of a lot of guilt for me. Though I was surrounded by and participating in the same religious rituals as the rest of the family, I felt some guilt in doing so. As though I was lying, and didn’t deserve to be part of the joy.

Of course, this all changed 2 years out from high school (of all times, a MONTH before Christmas!) when bad privacy settings on Facebook led to an image I commented on being shown to my entire friend’s list (this nsfw image). I ended up skipping out on that years gathering, and the one next year was a bit awkward (a few obviously still had an issue with the stance). But that has all evaporated now. If anyone cares, then they either have long forgotten or moved on.
 
Either way, as an adult, we will naturally assign magical details to our childhood experiences that will never live up. Not only has a lot changed since then, it’s also a function of our brains not being accurate. I can almost guarantee that even if a good effort was put in to accurately capture the atmosphere of the childhood celebrations, it still won’t feel the same. There will be details that you have long forgotten, and there will be negative details that you long ago scrubbed from mind. 

There is no reliving the past, hard as one tries. There is only finding out what can make the experience positive in the modern era. Whether that means going to see the family, or staying home and cracking a bottle of booze (or partaking in some legal cannabis!), the choice is yours. You don’t need to involve family OR drugs, it’s whatever suits you.

I will probably spend my holiday under the relaxing intoxication of one or 2 cannabis-infused beverages while doing some housework (or writing) to pass the time. That is what works for me. 
 
Figure out what works for you.