October 2017

Medical marijuana might stand a chance in the NFL

The NFL is looking into weed for pain management.
Image: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NFL has been clear with its views on marijuana use within the professional football league: nope.

Last year, a player was suspended for using weed to cope with Crohn’s disease all because marijuana falls under the league’s controlled substance policy, with no exceptions for medical use.

But that could be changing soon.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that the NFL has offered to work with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to study the effects of marijuana use for pain management. The union has been working on its own marijuana study.

The news about a potential collaborative study comes shortly after a massive study from Boston University on the chances of suffering brain damage in the form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, from playing the sport.

According to the WaPo, the NFL wrote a letter to the players association and offered to work together. Joe Lockhart, NFL executive vice president of communication, told the news outlet, “We look forward to working with the Players Association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players.”

We reached out to the NFLPA for additional comment.

This isn’t an official change in policy or anything close to it. But this is a first step toward the NFL opening up to the possibility of using marijuana for chronic and acute pain management.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Marissa SafontMedical marijuana might stand a chance in the NFL
read more

Holy smoke! The church of cannabis

As congregations dwindle, a new religion is lighting up Denver, Colorado. Aaron Millar joins the elevationists of the International Church of Cannabis who worship the weed

It started, naturally, with a group of friends smoking a joint. Steve Berke, a graduate of Yale University, was temporarily living in an old church in Denver, Colorado. His estate agent parents had bought the 113-year-old building with the plan to turn it into flats. He and Lee Molloy, as well as a few friends, had just moved from Miami to capitalise on Colorados lucrative marijuana market. But then, in the words of Lee: We started having these stupid, fantastical conversations. What if we kept it as a church? So Steve convinced his parents to give him the building and, nine months later, on 20 April 2016 4/20, as its known in the United States, the unofficial potheads holiday (because its 4.20pm somewhere, right?) the International Church of Cannabis opened its doors with its own chapel, theology and video game arcade.

From the outside all appears normal: red-brick towers, blocky turrets, a classic city church in an otherwise leafy suburb of Denver. But there are giveaways. The three front doors and arched window facade have been spray-painted with silver galaxies and bright, happy-face planets. The work of legendary painter and graphic artist Kenny Scharf, who has exhibited in the Whitney and New Yorks Museum of Modern Art, it looks more like the backdrop for an illegal 90s rave than your typical parish church. But its indicative of the coup that Elevation Ministries, the non-profit company that Steve and Lee co-founded to set up the Church of Cannabis, has managed to pull off.

That mural would probably buy you next doors house, Lee says, letting me in. But they got it for the price of an air ticket for Scharf, a few days skiing and the loan of a jacket. People love fantastical ideas.

Perfect
Perfect peace: guests of the church relaxing in the hangout room. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

The original plan was to open it to the general public, but because Colorados current pot law only allows smoking in private clubs, it is, for now at least, a members-only affair. To date they have more than 1,400 on their list. They open the doors from Thursday to Sunday for smoke-free public viewing, with private cannabis services held on Friday nights. It seems to be growing.

Thats not surprising. Medical marijuana was legalised in Colorado in 2000 the first state to write it into its constitution. By 2009 dispensaries began popping up around the state and legalisation of recreational use soon followed in 2012. It has, for the most part, been wholeheartedly embraced. In 2016 Colorado sold more than a $1bn of weed, created thousands of new jobs and collected almost $200m in additional tax revenue. A church dedicated to cannabis may seem strange to us, but in Colorado it might just be the next logical step.

But there have been detractors. Currently, three of the founding members, including Lee, are under citation for two charges dating back to their opening 4/20 event: the first for breaking the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, and the second for breaking a state law that forbids marijuana consumption outside private homes and clubs. They refute the claims, and officials admit that they appear to have been adhering to the law since then, but a court date is pending.

Dan Pabon, from the states House of Representatives, goes further: in a recent interview with the New York Times he said that the new church offends both religious beliefs everywhere, as well as the voters intent on allowing legalisation of marijuana in Colorado. He introduced an amendment that would ban pot use in churches, but to date it has failed to gather support. Overall, though, official opposition seems to be dwindling. Daniel Rowland, spokesman for the Denver city office, says: As long as they operate within the law and dont offend their neighbours, theyre free to do what they want.

Lighting
Lighting up: Lee Molloy, co-founding member, smokes a joint on the main stage. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

But what of those neighbours? Peter G Chronis, writing in local paper the Denver Post, said he felt blindsided angry that the project was done in secret and that the neighbourhood didnt have a chance to voice concerns prior to its completion. Parking and noise, rather than the consumption of marijuana inside, still seem to be the major worries, as well as the possibility that attendees will drive home stoned. But Lee is hoping to turn them round: arranging volunteer days through their church, to help make a positive impact in the community. Last Saturday they were out collecting rubbish from local streets. For now, at least, there seems to be a tentative truce.

But putting all beliefs and disputes aside, what everyone can surely agree is that they have transformed a near-derelict building into a staggering work of art. Every single surface has been painted in vibrant patterns of red, blue and green, geometric prisms with mythological creatures, stars and eyes hidden within. At the back wall, two dream-like Dali-esque giants sit cross-legged as if lost in meditation. It feels like a hallucination, someone says beside me, eyes careening upwards. Its like being swallowed by a Pink Floyd album cover. Perhaps most impressive of all is that it was created spontaneously without a sketch or a plan. This was another freebie: they flew Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel over and bought him a bunch of paints, then he started work in one corner and painted whatever he dreamed up until he finished. It took him just six days he rested on the seventh.

As the service begins we are encouraged to get to know each other: people spark up joints and pass them around. Long wisps of smoke float to the ceiling and cover the congregation in a flowery shroud; splutterings of coughs and giggles, the sharp intake of breath on all sides. There are about 30 of us in all, a mixed bag of misfits ranging from a self-proclaimed pothead granny, whose eyes appear to move independently of each other, to a couple of Harold & Kumar wannabies taking selfies at the altar. And then theres Lee: a former Bible quiz champion, raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, he has the credentials of a preacher if not the look: bushy hipster beard and long messy hair, dark bags under his eyes and the whiff of old smoke on his shirt. It feels more like the start of an AA meeting than a spiritual encounter. But then he starts to speak.

Time
Time out: arcade games in the downstairs lounge, where members can also play ping pong. Photograph: Ryan David Brown for the Observer

Being an elevationist [the term theyve coined for the theology of the new church] means being an explorer, Lee begins. Our spiritual journey is one of self-discovery, not one of dogma. We believe there is no one-path solution to lifes big questions. This is simply a supportive place for each one of us to find a pathway to our own spirituality, whatever that may be. Think of it like the pick n mix of belief. There is no doctrine, no creed, no scripture or book. Simply choose bits of whatever world religions work for you, or make something up yourself, mix it all together, and see if it tastes good. There are as many pathways to being an elevationist as there are elevationists, Lee says. Spirituality shouldnt be a prescription; it should be an adventure. Its about seeking, not being told what to find.

Its an idea that will strike a chord with many people. Church attendance in the UK is on the decline. Last year only 1.4% of the population attended Sunday Anglican services the lowest level ever recorded. There is a significant demographic of people who simply cant relate to organised religion or outright oppose it on principle. Being able to explore your own path, within a supportive space, could help fill that widening spiritual deficit.

But heres where they may lose you. That journey of self-discovery, says Lee, is enhanced by ritual cannabis use. We have been programmed to behave and think in certain ways, he says. Cannabis helps elevationists tear down those false realities.

Its easy to baulk. Does watching Star Trek and eating peanut M&Ms count as a spiritual path? But, in fact, cannabis use has long been part of religion, from ancient Chinese shamans to modern-day Rastafarians: inducing altered states of consciousness has been a cornerstone of belief since time immemorial. And even without drugs, whether its spinning Sufi dancers or drumming voodoo priests, or even just simple prayer or meditation, taking the mind to a higher plane has always been a road to the divine, whatever you may conceive that to be.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHoly smoke! The church of cannabis
read more

Corey Feldman Ticketed On Misdemeanor Marijuana And Traffic Charges In Louisiana

A small town police department in Louisiana had to jail

In addition to that, Mangham cops searched the bus and found both marijuana and prescription pills — and Feldman ended up being cited with possession of marijuana, speeding, and driving with a suspended license.

Feldman quickly paid a fine and was released to go about his business.

He tweeted about the ordeal (below):

The band had been on their way to play the Live Oaks Bar and Ballroom in nearby Monroe, Louisiana that night before they got stopped — it appears, of course, that the show was called off.

For what it’s worth, the group has another show tonight in Houston — and Feldman, tweeting about his whole ordeal, has indicated it’ll go off as planned.

Let’s just hope everybody is OK and the prescriptions come out so charges will go away!

[Image via FayesVision/WENN.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2017-10-22-corey-feldman-ticketed-misdemeanor-marijuana-possession-citation-suspended-license-louisiana

Marissa SafontCorey Feldman Ticketed On Misdemeanor Marijuana And Traffic Charges In Louisiana
read more

Ecstasy Will Be Used To Treat PTSD In “Breakthrough Therapy” Clinical Trials

Ecstasy – or MDMA, if you prefer its chemical name – is known to have a variety of effects on those that decide to partake in it. In the short term, it gives you an energy “buzz”, an alertness and sense of euphoria that enhances your perception of aural and visual stimuli. Temporarily strong feelings of love and affection for anyone nearby are also common, along with a come down that features paranoia, confusion, and even psychosis.

As with all drugs, it’s a complex mixture – but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long been intrigued by the positive effects more than the negative ones. That’s why they’re now going to try to use it in a regulated way to treat victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Just last week, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced that the FDA has designated this treatment as a “Breakthrough Therapy.”

This means that “preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies,” as per the FDA. Essentially, the evidence of multiple peer-reviewed clinical trials supports the use of this drug in treating PTSD.

Practically, this means that the development of a version of MDMA designed for widespread commercial use for those afflicted by the life-threatening psychological condition has now been expedited. Funding will increase, and trials will up the ante to Phase 3 experiments – those that are cutting-edge, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research projects involving multiple teams.

In sum, the US government is taking ecstasy very seriously as a medical option.

It may be illegal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an entirely bad thing, of course. serpeblu/Shutterstock

According to MAPS, the trials will combine psychotherapeutic techniques – such as counseling – with three separate doses of MDMA. Only time will tell how successful they will be, but it’s an exciting step forwards that suggests that when it comes to treating unhealthy people, pretty much nothing should be off the table.

The FDA, as long as the evidence is there to support it, is almost always happy to try new and arguably “controversial” techniques when it comes to treating diseases or conditions.

Just recently, the first use of a gene-editing technique designed to tackle an aggressive form of cancer was approved by the agency. Medical marijuana has been considered as a potential source of pain relief, as well as a psychological curative, for some time now – and in some states, as you probably know, it’s legally defined as a medical treatment.

So the appearance of MDMA shouldn’t come as a surprise. Yes, it’s a mind altering drug, and when consumed it carries with it certain risks. If it’s used to alter the minds of those suffering from a terrible psychological impairment, however, it actually has the potential to save lives rather than ruin them.

[H/T: Forbes]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/ecstasy-treat-ptsd-breakthrough-therapy-clinical-trials/

Marissa SafontEcstasy Will Be Used To Treat PTSD In “Breakthrough Therapy” Clinical Trials
read more

Theres a Marijuana Frenzy That Could End Very Badly in Canada

There’s one bummer question haunting all the marijuana businesses popping up between British Columbia and Newfoundland.

How much do Canucks like weed, eh?

A year before recreational cannabis is expected to become legal in Canada, there’s an explosion in companies cultivating the stuff. At least 10 marijuana outfits have new listings this year on the TSX Venture Exchange and Canada Securities Exchange. Some 51 enterprises have gotten the green light to grow pot, and 815 applicants are in the queue. All told, it could be enough to raise the country’s raw-weed output more than tenfold.

This is where skeptics see froth. “If you ask people today why they don’t use, it’s a small percentage who say ‘because it’s illegal,”’ said Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. “In many respects there might be an overestimation of demand.”

Long-time users and growers insist he’s wrong, but investors aren’t so sure. Producer MedReleaf Corp. tumbled as much as 28 percent last month in the worst debut for a Canadian IPO in 16 years amid concern pot stocks are overvalued. Shares of Canopy Growth Corp., the country’s first billion dollar marijuana start-up, are down 21 percent in the past three months.

The North American Medical Marijuana Index, which tracks leading cannabis stocks in the U.S. and Canada, has plunged 21 percent since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in April unveiled its plan to legalize the drug by next July, 16 years after Canada permitted it for medical use.

Of course, some of the decline may be attributed to the situation in the U.S. Many in the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular, are no friends to the industry. For Canadian companies, the risk isn’t political.

“There seems to be a little bit of investor fatigue,” said PI Financial Corp. analyst Jason Zandberg. He said they’re having trouble differentiating between the producers, new and old, and what might give them competitive advantages.

That’s to be expected, according to marijuana bulls, in a brand-new market that hasn’t even arrived yet. Parliament still has to pass the recreational law (though there’s little question it’ll do so). Then the federal government will have to write rules on taxation, and each province will have to decide how to regulate distribution.

Jon Bent

Photographer: Trevor Hagan/Bloomberg

“Nothing is going to be perfect right off the hop,” said Jon Bent, a licensed medical marijuana grower who has been cultivating plants on his 11-acre farm outside Winnipeg for five years. “It’s baby steps — and the industry is moving quickly.”

The question is whether it’s going too quickly, considering the variety of estimates about how much recreational weed Canadians will end up regularly ingesting. Some educated guesses are that about 15 percent of Canadians partake now, legally and otherwise. That’s around 5.4 million people, roughly the population of Colorado, which gave the nod to recreational marijuana in 2014. Medical and recreational sales there rose 56 percent last year, to nearly $1 billion, according to Cannabase, operator of the state’s largest market.

One projection, from the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, is that 4.6 million people age 15 and over will use cannabis at least once and consume 655,000 kilograms next year, and that 5.2 million will be doing so by 2021. Other reports peg future recreational consumption at 420,000 kilograms a year with sales reaching C$6 billion by 2021, Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. said in November. For its part, the government agency Health Canada anticipates a mature medical marijuana market will be around C$1.3 billion.

That could underestimate the number of Canadians who will refuse to buy from corporate weed growers, said Chad Jackett, 38, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Squamish, British Columbia, and uses cannabis oil everyday to treat nerve pain. His concern is that new regulations will sideline the independent farmers who advocated for the plant for years, and grow small amounts. “I will definitely not be using anything” from one of the big outfits, Jackett said. “If I don’t have enough of my own then I’ll be getting it from somebody else whom I trust.”

Underscoring how confusing it all is, a few alarms are being sounded that there won’t be enough to pass around on Day One. In fact, Colorado faced some shortages of legal supplies in the first year. A similar rush emptied shelves in Nevada, where sales started on July 1.

By 2015, Colorado had the opposite problem, according to Denver-based researcher Marijuana Policy Group, with supplies approximately 51 percent larger than demand. The average price sought by wholesalers for recreational flower has fallen 52 percent since lawful sales began, according to Cannabase.

None of this has dampened enthusiasm in some quarters in Canada. MedReleaf has raised C$100 million, all of which is going toward expanding capacity, said Chief Executive Officer Neil Closner. He said the disappointing IPO was due to a general market slowdown and “not a reflection of demand for our product.” Likes others in the business, he is confident Canadians will be keen enough to lawfully imbibe that the blossoming industry will be supported.

Bent, the pot farmer outside Winnipeg, is just as upbeat. Surveying part of his crop, in a room brimming with 30 bushy plants ripening under the glow of hot lamps, he said the oft-misunderstood reefer is definitely going mainstream. Even his cousin, a “religious librarian,” became a convert after experimenting in Denver, he said. “These are people who would never, ever try it” if it were illegal.

“It’s really gaining popularity and really starting to lose that stigma,” Bent said. “I see a lot of money being spent.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-17/there-s-a-marijuana-frenzy-that-could-end-very-badly-in-canada

    Marissa SafontTheres a Marijuana Frenzy That Could End Very Badly in Canada
    read more

    ‘One false move and you’re done’: how US cities are changing for runaway kids

    Runaway youth have always fled to cities but they now find themselves adrift in much costlier cities, where even the fully employed are barely scraping by

    The first thing Zach Hicks did after he was run over in Roanoke, Virginia, was to write a Facebook post. He kept it simple: I just got ran over by a truck. The first commenter was his mother, hundreds of miles away in the midwest, who also kept it simple: WTF!?!?!?!?

    He was retrieving a dog, Sobaka, that hed been given by a band of Hells Angels. The dog had bolted and was cowering beneath an 18-wheeler truck. Against his better judgment, Hicks crawled under to pull Sobaka out, and was hit.

    The wheel started going over my leg, and then my side and then the side of my face, he says. I know what tire treads look like from underneath.

    That was August 2015, two years after hed left home in Oregon. Today he is resting in a secluded alley on Masonic Avenue, a stones throw from Haight Street in San Francisco. Fifty years ago, the children with windy feet ran to this very block from parts unknown, in search of something anything during the Summer of Love.

    The kids are still coming, along with legions of tourists who ensure this neighbourhoods street signs are among the worlds most photographed. But this is a side of San Francisco few will ever see.

    Hicks is joined by a dozen tattooed and pierced young men and women wearing luminescent orange vests. They smoke, sip Gatorade, and all but inhale three donated pizzas between shifts sweeping the pavement and wiping graffiti off the walls. Some of these young people ran away from home, some were abandoned, and some experienced a bit of column A and a bit of column B. Christian Calinsky, the founder of Taking it to the Streets, a work and housing programme for young homeless people, considers it largely a difference without a distinction in his mind they simply left home.

    Theyre both on the same playing field, man. I really cant distinguish, says Calinksy, 44, a former runaway who was homeless for large stretches between ages 12 and 34. All their traumas are the same in my mind. But I dont see people as their trauma. I see them as their potential.

    Hicks, 22, has plenty of both. He sports a beard like a rhododendron bush and a rugby players build. He has piercing blue eyes, a ready smile, and the phrase 25 Jokes tattooed across his knuckles. Thats how I make my bread when Im on the road. And its five for a dollar; when you buy in bulk you get the extra joke.

    A
    One in every 25 public school students in San Francisco is homeless. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty

    His story is instructive of the modern nature of runaways in the US. Hicks grew up in the economically depressed, dope-saturated Pacific Northwest. He shows me his ID; yes, he really was born in 1995. Mum was around bikers, he says. I grew up in a double-wide trailer and she ran meth for bandits. She had me and stopped but we still had all our connections to the brotherhood.

    He says his father would take him away as a toddler, only to mistreat him. After interventions by Child Protective Services, he ended up back in his mothers custody. Before too long, Hicks says, I got into some bad shit. He burgled the medical marijuana outfit, making off with four pounds of pot; the next time he tried it, he found himself with a gun in his face.

    After several years at a facility for at-risk youth in rural eastern Oregon, he was placed with an older family member who had started smoking meth and was living in a backwoods, hickerbilly town where the only things to do are smoke meth, smoke weed or drive a big truck around in circles.

    Like many young men and women across the country, he says he had no choice but to leave. He ended up in a fetid squat, first rooming with meth friends and then, after a police raid, sleeping alongside them in a cave in Bend, Oregon. There, high and morbidly curious, they set his sleeping bag ablaze.

    At the age when most young people are ready to start their adult lives, Hicks was ready to end his. But then he met a train-hopper traveller kid who asked me to smoke a bowl with him and tell him why I was crying. Hicks confessed that he couldnt take being homeless in this town forever (he still refers derisively to non-transient homeless people as home bums) but had no money to leave. The traveller laughed, and said: Alls you need is a backpack, a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie [pen] so you can make some money. Thats your credit card.

    And so Hicks ran away to a new life. He hitched three rides over five days from Virginia to San Diego. If you get in the wrong car or piss off the wrong person, youre dead. One false move and youre done. And then he smiles. But it is fun, man.

    Larkin
    Larkin Street Youth Services provides housing and education for young people in San Francisco

    Counting runaways

    New kids like Hicks arrive at the Larkin Street Youth Services centre in San Franciscos Tenderloin district every day. Theres still an honest-to-goodness bulletin board here, where hand-written messages are folded and pinned. One features several selfies of a grinning teenage girl and the words, Olivia, call Abuelita. A pair of kids amble in and glance at the board. Ah, says a tall boy. A new one.

    Kids have always run away from home. The places they flee to, however, are changing. Todays runaways are finding themselves adrift in much costlier cities, where even fully employed and well-educated people are finding it increasingly difficult to scrape by. In San Francisco a city with a $10bn municipal budget and a population of only around 870,000 one of every 25 public school students is homeless. Thats about one in every classroom.

    I tricked with the hustlers in those days, says Jeff Sheehy, who is now a city councilman representing the predominantly gay Castro district, a Mecca for many rudderless LGBT youths running from untenable home lives.

    Nearly half of San Franciscos young homeless people identify as LGBT. Sheehy ran away in 1988 after he was blackballed by his family for revealing his homosexuality a common storyline in this city, whether they live in a luxury condos or in a van by the river. Sheehy partied with kids who were hustling and lived four or five to a room, in single-room occupancy hotels on Polk Street. He worked a series of menial jobs to pay for food, beer and $300 a month rent.

    Now those single-room hotels are gone; Polk Street has gentrified to the point that its no longer even a gay neighbourhood, with 400 sq ft flats in Sheehys old building now starting at $2,564 a month.

    Its hard to know for certain whether there are more or fewer runaways now. A federally funded national tally is due this year the first since a Department of Justice survey back in 1999, which estimated that 1.68 million young Americans had experienced a runaway/throwaway episode.

    Zach
    Zach Hicks left Oregon, and found himself in San Francisco. Photograph: Joe Eskenazi

    But counting young homeless people is hard. As the billboard at the Larkin Street Youth Services centre testifies, they excel at only being seen when they want to be seen. Fluctuations in national tallies more likely represent changes in the counting system than in the on-the-ground situation.

    A recent jump in runaways could be due to a new law which mandates that foster service providers file reports when their charges go missing, explains Preston Findlay of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). You never want to be an alarmist when you say theres been a dramatic increase, Findlay says. In this case, one small silver lining is that it may in part be due to better reporting.

    Once away from home, young people are more vulnerable than the adult homeless population. They can, as Hicks noted, get in the wrong car.

    I do have to be more cautious with [some folks] in my speaking to them because of the trauma they suffered from males, says Calinsky from Taking it to the Streets. Findlay confirms that of the more than 18,500 endangered runaways who reported to his organisation in 2016, one in six was deemed a likely victim of child sex trafficking. Of those, seven out of eight were in the care of social services before they went missing.

    As well as LGBT youth, foster children are also heavily overrepresented among the runaway population. In San Francisco, one in every four homeless people under 25 is a former foster child; and one in every five foster children is expected to experience homelessness within four years of leaving the programme.

    Audrina is all of the above: a transexual former foster child who ran away to San Francisco from Billings, Montana. She is the eldest of six children; her mother was just 15 when she gave birth. I ended up getting taken away from her. I was in foster care for five years, says the shy, petite 24-year-old. I got adopted by what I thought was a good Christian family. But they became more and more abusive of me.

    Following a violent confrontation when she was 17 with her adoptive father, she left home and has been travelling ever since. She started drinking, then doing stronger stuff. This is my one-year anniversary of being sober from meth, she says with a wan smile. I was walking around each night looking for a fight, carrying knives. And the one night I didnt have my knives on me was the only night I ever got into a fight.

    The fight was both a horror and an exhilaration and it took its toll. My chest started tightening up and I ended up falling down and having a seizure on Van Ness Avenue. I was overdosing on meth. She quit cold turkey. I have no idea how.

    She recently formed her own group at the citys LGBT centre aimed at helping fellow young people. Shes doing great, says Calinsky, though Audrina is a harsher critic: My life has been a series of stupid choices.

    A
    In San Francisco, one in four homeless people under 25 is a former foster child. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP

    A homeless homeless centre

    Fuck sciatica, fuck the fact heroin makes me throw up and fuck these stairs, says a barefoot young woman. She is young, but walks with a cane as she climbs the steps to the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, passing Mary Howe who props up a sign reading Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA).

    This is an office shift for Howe, the organisations executive director and a former heroin-addicted runaway. On Christmas Day in 2013, the HYA lost the lease on its longtime drop-in centre. Ever since, the homeless centre has itself been homeless.

    Theres something to be said for putting a lot of effort toward youth who are homeless, Howe says. In the long run, its cost-beneficial. They are the ones who will become a part of the adult homeless population.

    At every level of government, money has been allocated towards alleviating chronic adult homelessness. Adults remain the neediest and most visible representatives of a shameful national epidemic. But Darla Bardine, the executive director of the National Network for Youth, notes that the federal funding necessitated by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008 has been flat for years.

    In San Francisco, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is allotted annually to combat homelessness, but only 8% of it is directed toward young people despite 21% of the citys tallied homeless being younger than 24.

    In California, homeless youth advocates were overjoyed to secure an additional $10m in yearly state funding to be split among Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. Thats a step up from the $1.1m the four counties split for the prior 29 years but its still a paltry sum, representing less than 0.01% of the states $125bn budget.

    There have been some wins: in recent years San Francisco has opened several hundred housing units earmarked specifically for young homeless people. Many units are additionally reserved for extended foster care youth. In 2012, California expanded its foster care system to cover young people up to their 21st birthday, eliminating the draconian scenario of youths who grew up in turbulent situations getting the heave-ho as their 18th birthday gift.

    There is no shortage of sound ideas to preemptively stave off runaway situations. Children in California can no longer be charged with prostitution after many years, the legal mindset has finally changed to view them as victims, rather than criminals. Ive heard from some kids that prostitution may be a better choice for them than what they feel theyre facing in a foster situation, says Eliza Reock, a child sex-trafficking specialist at the NCMEC. But at what point would we accept abuse of a child as a solution? Its a big indicator we need to step up and do better.

    In Los Angeles County, interventions are triggered when children exhibit certain warning signs, such as chronic truancy or substance abuse. On the federal level, Bardines organisation has created a comprehensive System to End Youth and Young Adult Homelessness broken down into prevention services, early and crisis intervention services, long-term services and after-care services.

    We have to be looking earlier, says Doug Styles, the executive director of Huckleberry Youth Programs, a San Francisco-based agency ministering to young homeless people that was formed in 1967. More than nine in 10 young people who show up at Styles door are eventually reunited with their families. But the real trick would be preventing that trip in the first place, he says. We can probably identify some profiles of people likely to become homeless. We should be working with them earlier on. We should be working with school systems.

    These are smart ideas but not revolutionary. Los Angeles is already doing some of these things. For the most part, the problems are in the execution, or lack thereof. Most plans run aground on the need for additional money and housing two things few major cities ever really have enough of.

    Youth providers are careful not to bite the government hand that feeds them, but cant help noting theyre fed far less (proportionately) than providers serving adult homeless populations. Statistically, underserved young people are likely to be tomorrows visible and resource-intensive chronically homeless adults, but dollars are prioritised to help the homeless people the taxpayers see, rather than the homeless kids they do not.

    Hicks, however, has a message for those taxpayers: dont worry about him. Look, I come from nothing, he says. This is normal life for me. In San Francisco, you could be the scummiest person, you could be a doctor. You can be whatever you want to be. This city gives you all the skills to do it.

    As were talking he suddenly decides to barrel across a three-lane highway to catch a bus. Two cars bear down on him. Hes not looking, and doesnt appear to care. They slow and swerve at the last moment, and this time they dont hit him.

    Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive here

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/09/one-false-move-and-youre-done-how-us-cities-are-changing-for-runaway-kids

    Marissa Safont‘One false move and you’re done’: how US cities are changing for runaway kids
    read more

    The green gold rush: Could Africa be on the verge of a weed race?

    (CNN)Several African governments are considering tapping a lucrative natural resource.

    More than 10,000 tons of cannabis are produced on the continent each year, according to a UN survey, which advocates believe could be worth billions of dollars in a rapidly expanding global market for legal weed.
    African governments have not yet followed the trend of legalization seen in Europe and the Americas. But Lesotho’s recent announcement of the continent’s first legal license to grow marijuana is part of a wider shift toward more liberal policies.
      From Morocco to South Africa, there is growing interest in cashing in on a valuable crop. But in each case there are unique challenges to face.

      Lesotho

      The tiny, landlocked nation has few natural resources. But Lesotho is a giant of the marijuana trade.
      “Cannabis is grown almost everywhere in the country,” a UNESCO report found, noting the industry is a leading contributor to the economy in a country plagued by poverty. Much of this comes through illicit trade with Lesotho’s larger, richer neighbor, South Africa.
      The government has now signaled its intentions to bring the business out of the shadows by awarding the first license for cultivation and sale to South African alternative medicine company Verve Dynamics.
      However, no formal steps have been taken to legalize or regulate the vast network of existing farmers and traders.

      Morocco

      The North African state is famous for its hashish and is second only to Afghanistan as a producer of the substance, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
      The trade employs at least 800,000 people, according to Bloomberg, and is worth $10 billion a year in sales.
      Such dizzying numbers have underpinned a growing movement for legalization. In 2014, an opposition party in the Moroccan parliament with close ties to the monarchy proposed a bill to legalize marijuana production for medical and industrial use.
      But the bill failed, and the movement suffered a further setback with the resignation of leading advocate Ilyas El Omari. There has also been opposition to legalization from conservative religious groups, and even cannabis farmers who are concerned their crop might lose value.

      Malawi

      Malawi is well known for the prevalence and quality of marijuana production within its borders, including the sought after “Malawi Gold” strain.
      The government is now cultivating hemp on a trial basis, ahead of potential legalization of the non-psychoactive cannabis strain for industrial uses such as fabric and food products. This represents a major development after a lengthy battle with drug control groups and religious leaders that fiercely opposed any softening of policy.
      Both advocates and critics of legalizing hemp have suggested that marijuana could be next, a longstanding demand of the country’s Rastafarian minority, which claims that smoking ‘chamba’ is integral to their culture.

      Ghana

      Ghanaians are heavy consumers of marijuana, according to the UNODC, which is prohibited but widely tolerated.
      A pro-legalization campaign has been gathering momentum in recent years, with support from the former head of the Narcotics Control Board. The movement recently received another boost when the executive director of the Ghana Standards Authority suggested that state-led cultivation and export of marijuana could generate valuable income.
      But a vociferous backlash from government officials and mental health experts showed this will not be easily achieved. The influential Christian Council of Ghana has also spoken out against legalization, warning this would “destroy the future of our young people.”

      Swaziland

      The continent’s last absolute monarchy is plagued by poverty, but boasts an abundance of marijuana.
      Prominent public figures have suggested using the cannabis crop to boost the economy, including Swaziland’s housing and development minister, while the national commissioner of police has called for a study.
      The Swazi House of Assembly has now appointed a committee to explore the possibility of legalization, according to recent reports.
      However, similar proposals have been discussed for several years without moving forward, and police continue to make regular arrests for cultivation of marijuana.

      South Africa

      One of the continent’s largest economies is also among its leading markets for marijuana, or “dagga” as it is locally known. South Africa produces around 2,500 tons a year, according to a UN report.
      Several legal battles are ongoing over the future of the drug in South Africa. The Dagga Party won a landmark ruling this year to permit smoking in the home on privacy grounds, without changing the legal status of the herb.
      The so-called “dagga couple” Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are going further in seeking the right to grow and consume marijuana, which could establish a far-reaching precedent.
      The South African government has already published guidelines for medical marijuana, paving the way for legal licenses.
      But medical authorities have warned that potential health risks may not be well understood, and public access will likely depend on the outcomes of clinical trials.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/09/africa/african-countries-legalize-marijuana/index.html

      Marissa SafontThe green gold rush: Could Africa be on the verge of a weed race?
      read more

      How a 13-year-old girl may have inspired Pennsylvania to legalize medical pot

      Pastor Shawn Berkebile says he remembers when two parishioners told him they were going to break the law.

      They came to me as a confession, said Berkebile, a pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Abbotstown, Pa. 

      In 2013, Matt and Angie Sharrer told him they were using medical marijuana as a treatment for their daughter, Annie, then 9, who suffered from epileptic seizures.

      They were gonna do it to save their daughter, and they wanted me to know as pastor, Berkebile told Fox News.

      At the time, medical marijuana use was illegal in Pennsylvania. Berkebile said the Sharrers were getting their doses of medical cannabis from out of state where its use was legal. The parents did what they could to be discrete about bringing it back home, he added.

      “There was nothing that was going to help [Annie] pharmaceutical-wise,” Berkebile said, noting that her condition had worsened over the years. 

      Berkebile saw no need to notify authorities because the Sharrers, he said, were doing what they could to help their daughter.

      If this was my child, I would do it the same way, Berkebile said. “I would jump in and I would go through every hoop imaginable. I would break the law.

      Now Pennsylvania is one of 29 states and that allows medical marijuana use. Before that though, Berkebile asked the Sharrers if they would go public to the congregation with their story. They shared their story, Berkebile said, even though they knew they risked arrest. 

      Berkebile said he too took a stand. 

      To say it has no medical value is sinful, Berkebile said. “Its just abusive. Itsas one of my colleagues said in the Pennsylvania legislatureits legislative child abuse. And I agreed.”

      Permits were issued in June for medical marijuana facilities to open in Pennsylvania. Berkebile says it’ll still be a long time before companies who have received permits to be fully operational. But he believes Annies story played a role in passing medical marijuana legislation in the state.

      “She was barely a child, he remembers of Annie. “She was doped out. She was not able to go to school.

      Today, Berkebile says Annie, now 13, has controlled seizures, an improvement from what she used to experience.

      The use of medical marijuana remains controversial, but Berkebile hopes Annie’s story can shine a light on a potential benefit of its use.

      “I see medical cannabis as a way of giving hope to families that lost hope a while ago, he said.

      Berkebile hopes the rest of the country will one day get on board with the use of medical marijuana just as his congregation did when the Sharrers told their story.

      Michelle Chavez is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Pittsburgh.

      Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/08/16/how-13-year-old-girl-may-have-helped-pennsylvania-pass-legalized-marijuana.html

      Marissa SafontHow a 13-year-old girl may have inspired Pennsylvania to legalize medical pot
      read more

      Former congressional aide charged with taking pot shop bribe in California

      A former California congressional aide promised to “make things happen” to keep an illegal Compton pot shop in business — for a price, prosecutors said Wednesday.

      Michael Kimbrew, 44, pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles federal court to attempted extortion and receiving a bribe.

      Kimbrew was working in the Compton field office for Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Los Angeles, in March 2015 when he approached a marijuana shop that was operating illegally and told an employee it would be shut down if he couldn’t reach a deal with the owners, according to the indictment.

      He then met with the owners of the unnamed shop at Compton City Hall, where Hahn had a district office. He told them he was working with state and federal agencies, including the FBI, and for $5,000 could “make things happen” to get the proper medical marijuana permits.

      In May 2015, Kimbrew met at City Hall with an FBI agent who was posing as the owners’ business partner, and said he worked for the federal government and oversaw all activities in the city.

      According to the indictment, in May 2015 Kimbrew went up to an employee of the marijuana shop and told the clerk that the store was in violation of the law and that it would be shut down unless the owners reached an agreement with him, LosCerritosNews.Net reported.

      The former aide then met with owners of the shop at Compton City Hall and claimed that he worked with the FBI and that he could “make things happen” by securing the proper permits for the store in exchange for $5,000.

      In exchange for the bribe, he promised not to send authorities to shut down the shop, would help it get the required permit to operate and wouldn’t notify the congresswoman, which he said would eliminate the possibility of her informing the FBI, according to authorities.

      An undercover FBI agent posing as a business partner with the shop met with Kimbrew, who reiterated his claims he could prevent a shutdown in exchange for $5,000, according to the indictment.

      The undercover agent later met with Kimbrew at a restaurant and handed him a menu with the cash inside, the indictment said. The aide allegedly pocketed the money.

      Hahn, who is now a Los Angeles County supervisor, was not named in the indictment and was unaware of her former staffer’s alleged wheeling and dealing until she was notified by a reporter Wednesday.

      “If these charges are true, Mr. Kimbrew abused his power as a representative of my office and violated both my trust and the trust of the public,” Hahn said in a statement.

      A public defender representing Kimbrew did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

      Kimbrew, of Carson, could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. He was freed on a $15,000 bond and trial was scheduled Sept. 26.

      The Associated Press contributed to this story.

      Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/08/03/former-congressional-aide-charged-with-taking-pot-shop-bribe-in-california.html

      Marissa SafontFormer congressional aide charged with taking pot shop bribe in California
      read more

      At Politicon, Roger Stone has plenty to say – for and against Trump team

      Political consultant Roger Stone was every bit his controversial self Saturday night at the Politicon event in Pasadena, California.

      During a session titled Weed Nation, Stone threw verbal bombs at the Trump administration, accusing it of wanting to re-fire up the war on drugs.

      But during a separate session on Watergate — which was really about the Trump-Russia probe Stone seemed more ready to defend the president and his team.

      For example, Stone said there was one key difference between the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon and the current media frenzy surrounding the White House.

      Watergate started with a crime, Stone said, referring to the burglary that launched the case. But he said he saw no evidence of crime in contacts between Trumps team and Russians.

      In fact, Stone said he saw more parallels between the Nixon era and the Obama years than between Nixon and Trump, asserting the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on tens of thousands of Americans.

      He also said the charge that Russians had hacked computers of the Democratic National Committee was entirely unproven.

      What was Stones answer for the media lynch mobs and others going after Trump and Co.?

      You dont have any evidence to impeach Trump, Stone said, and your motivation is entirely political.

      “You don’t have any evidence to impeach Trump, and your motivation is entirely political.”

      – Roger Stone, political consultant

      Stone said Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had entered the U.S. without a visa and had posted photos online from an anti-Trump rally and from inside the office of Republican Sen. John McCain, a frequent Trump critic.

      I find that troubling, Stone said. I smell a set-up.

      Other Stone barbs:

      On Sean Spicer: He shouldnt let the door hit him in the ass on the way out.

      On George W. Bush: Bush snorted so much cocaine, he had a personal thank-you note from Pablo Escobar.  

      On Trumps military transgender ban: I disagree with that entirely.

      Regarding marijuana, Stone said Trump needed to stick to his campaign position of leaving pot policy to the states, adding he didnt think the president was truly aligned with the drug warriors on his team anyway.

      Stone warned that Trump could lose voter support by taking a hard line on marijuana. Medical marijuana, for example, was a consensus issue, he said, with lots of voter support.

      The war on drugs, meanwhile, was largely an expensive racist failure, Stone said. He charged that the Clinton administration had incarcerated an entire generation of young black men for mostly small amounts of pot.

      Politicon, billed as an independent forum, unaffiliated with any political organizations, parties or political action committees, was scheduled to conclude Sunday at the Pasadena Convention Center.

      Newly hired White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci had been scheduled to appear at the event, but canceled following his recent interview with the New Yorker magazine, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

      Fox News Daniel Gallo contributed to this story.

      Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/07/30/at-politicon-roger-stone-has-plenty-to-say-for-and-against-trump-team.html

      Marissa SafontAt Politicon, Roger Stone has plenty to say – for and against Trump team
      read more