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‘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 left home 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 pre-emptively 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 road 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.

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  • This piece was amended on 9 October 2017 to clarify the circumstances of Jeff Sheehys departure from home and the type of road Hicks ran across.

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

Marissa Safont‘One false move and you’re done’: how US cities are changing for runaway kids
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After marijuana, are magic mushrooms next to be decriminalised in California?

Mayoral candidate near San Francisco seeks signatures to put decriminalisation on statewide ballot next year, saying drug could offer healing at time of crisis

As California prepares for the legalisation of recreational marijuana in 2018, one man is pushing for the state to become the first to decriminalise magic mushrooms.

Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate for the city of Marina, just south of the San Francisco Bay, has filed a proposal that would exempt adults over the age of 21 from any penalties over possessing, growing, selling or transporting psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms.

If he can get 365,880 voter signatures by the end of April 2018, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative will be placed on the statewide ballot.

Saunders thinks that now is the right time because, he says, the drug can help bridge the current political divide and restore a sense of community.

The world is really hurting and everybody is at a loss about whats going on right now with Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis and everything else. Im at a loss at what to do politically, but the only thing I feel like we could do is get psilocybin into more peoples hands, he said.

It deflates the ego and strips down your own walls and defences and allows you to look at yourself in a different light, he said, adding: It could allow people to figure out what to do and could revolutionise the way we treat those with depression, addiction and cluster headaches.

A profound magic mushroom experience helped Saunders get over a debilitating five-year heroin addiction in 2003, when he was 32. I got to the root of why I made a conscious decision to become a heroin addict; Ive been clean almost 15 years.

California is one of eight states where voters have legalised marijuana for recreational use, even though its still included in the federal governments list of schedule 1 drugs. Saunders and Kitty Merchant, who is co-author of the measure and his fiancee, believe that magic mushrooms also listed as schedule 1 drugs are the next logical step.

I think we have learned a lot from marijuana and we are ready as a society, he said.

So far, they have about 1,000 signatures, but plan to ramp up signature-gathering efforts in early December at college campuses and events like the medical marijuana summit The Emerald Cup. Eighty-five thousand signatures will trigger hearings at the state capitol.

Merchant and Saunders are not the first couple to propose legalising mushrooms. The husband and wife team Tom and Sheri Eckhert announced earlier this year that they were pushing for a similar ballot measure in Oregon, hoping to make it the first state in the US to legalise the drug.

They have taken a more conservative approach than Saunders has, aiming for a 2020 ballot and seeking to legalise the drug to be taken only in licensed centres under the supervision of a certified facilitator. Individuals would not be able to just buy the mushrooms and consume them at home as they can with marijuana.

Its not only amazing for mental health, theres also a lot of potential for self-development and creative work, Tom Eckhert told Vice in July.

Their efforts run in parallel to several promising clinical trials in which psychedelic mushrooms have been used to successfully treat severe depression, anxiety and addiction.

Robin Carhart-Harris, who has been studying the use of psilocybin to tackle treatment-resistant depression at Imperial College London, believes that it is a logical inevitability that the drug will become available to patients.

However, such legalisation will only take place once final phase 3 clinical trials are completed and the drug is approved by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency. To standardise the dose, the psilocybin would have to be administered in capsule or pill form.

Depression is such a major problem and its not being treated effectively at the moment. A lot of patients arent seeing results with traditional antidepressants, Carhart-Harris said, adding that psilocybin could be a legal medicine to be administered in clinics within the next five years.

Although magic mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs in terms of the number of people who require emergency medical treatment, according to last years Global Drug Survey, they still carry risks.

They are drugs with very low toxicity and very low abuse potential, said psychiatrist Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, who said that if you take into account how often people take them, they are safer than cannabis.

The only difference being the potential for mushrooms to distort your perceptions, cognition, emotions in a way that is totally outside of most peoples real of normal experience. For a minority of people, taken in the wrong situation, that could be terrifying.

Winstock is inviting people to fill out the 2018 Global Drug Survey, an annual anonymous survey that analyses international drug use patterns.

Winstock said hed prefer to see a well-regulated market for magic mushrooms where youd have to show a letter from a doctor saying you were not receiving any acute mental health care or medications. Buyers should also be given advice on how to use the drug, what the effects are and given links to online services to manage difficult situations if they arise.

I would get people to treat mushrooms with the respect they deserve, he said.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a not-for-profit group focused on ending the war on drugs, would not comment on the specific proposals in California and Oregon, but its director of legal affairs, Tamar Todd, said: We certainly agree that nobody should be arrested or incarcerated simply because they possessed or used drugs.

An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Robin Carhart-Harris works at University College London. He is at Imperial College London.

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

Marissa SafontAfter marijuana, are magic mushrooms next to be decriminalised in California?
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.

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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
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In Seattle US old-timers rediscover the high life on cannabis tours

Retirement home residents take a trip to a producer

Forget bingo, tea dances and seaside trips. Residents from a chain of Seattle retirement homes are going on Pot for Beginners tours to learn about and buy cannabis in the city, where its now legal.

Connie Schick said her son roared with laughter when he heard she was joining a field trip to a cannabis-growing operation, an extraction plant and shop. The 79-year-old, who smoked the odd joint in the 70s, wanted to know how legalisation has changed the way the drug is used and produced.

Schick was one of eight women, from their late 60s to mid-80s, who descended from a minibus emblazoned with the name of their assisted living centre, El Dorado West, outside Vela cannabis store last Tuesday.

You can only play so many games of bingo, said Schick. My son thought it was hilarious that I was coming here, but Im open-minded and want to stay informed. Cannabis has come so far from the days when you smoked a sly joint and got into trouble if they found out. We used to call it hemp then and didnt know its strength. It just used to make me sleepy, so I didnt see the point.

Schick, who uses a wheelchair after suffering a stroke, is interested in the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Its so different now. There are so many ways you can take it, and all these different types to help with aches and pains.

They used to say it was a gateway drug to other things, like cocaine Lots of peoples views are changing.

Certainly, the number of people aged 65 or older taking cannabis in the US is growing. The proportion of this age group who reported cannabis use in the past year rose more than tenfold from 0.2% to 2.1% between 2002 and 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A Gallup poll last year showed that 3% of those over 65 smoke cannabis.

Much of this is attributed to the ageing of the baby-boomer generation, who dabbled with the drug when they were young and are returning to it for medical or recreational use as it becomes legal and more normalised. Cannabis is now legal for medical use in 29 states and for medical and recreational use in eight (since 2012 in Seattle and the rest of Washington state).

Most of the women on the tour were more interested in the medical use, although Denise Roux, 67, said: I would like to buy it to get high too but Im a cheap high, it doesnt take much.

A seminar over sandwiches was held for thegroup as they sat in front of the large windows of the cultivation room, where they could see scores of plants growing under intense lighting.

They were told about the different strains: uplifting sativa plants and more sedating indicas. They learned about tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives a high, and cannabidiol (CBD) which does not, making CBD-rich cannabis appealing for medical use. A scientist in a lab coat who worked in the processing facility spoke about terpenes fragrant oils secreted by glands in the flower that give strains their different smells and flavours. Vials were sniffed and various ways to take cannabis were also covered, including smoking, vaporising and eating it.

Roux, a retired administrative assistant, said: Im a big Google girl, but I wanted to talk to people who know about it so I can understand it all better. I have an autoimmune disease, which stops my appetite, and Im interested in marijuana from that standpoint. She added she had used cannabis recreationally in the 80s and had returned to it to help with her illness. I use a vape. It makes me sleepy and its a pain control, and it gives me an appetite.

After the briefing, it was time for shopping. The store looked like an upmarket jewellers, with muted lighting and art on the walls, except the glass cabinets in the store were stocked with pre-rolled joints, edibles including chocolates and sweets, vape pens and bags of different strains of cannabis rather than diamond rings and necklaces.

Darlene Johnson, 85, a former nurse, perused their contents. On the advice of a bearded bud tender, she bought a deep tissue and joint gel and a tincture to put in drinks, which she hopes will help with her severe neck pain. I wanted a non-psychoactive option, she said. I dont want to get high. I used to work in the emergency room and saw people come in sick from taking too many drugs, though not usually marijuana.

Her friend, Nancy Mitchell, 80, has never tried cannabis. She has MS and had read that cannabis could help with her symptoms. I wanted to know more details, she said. My kids keep telling me, Mom, try it. I dont want to smoke things, but I see there are other ways.

Smoking is not allowed at El Dorado West. Village Concepts, which runs the chain, has a no-smoking policy and it is illegal to consume cannabis in public in the state.

The chains director of corporate development, Tracy Willis, said: There was one man who was smoking it on his patio and he refused to stop, so he had to leave. If youre using an edible, we dont have any issue with it, thats your own business. We treat it as a recreational thing.

The tours began in response to questions from residents.They wanted to know where it was sold, how much money was made from it, where it was grown, said Willis. Weve had a good reaction [to the tours] from nine out of 10 relatives, but some are horrified. One angry daughter said we were encouraging marijuana use. Her mother told her to butt out.

Participants
Participants on the tour learned about different ways to use cannabis. Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/01/seattle-retirement-home-cannabis-tours

Marissa SafontIn Seattle US old-timers rediscover the high life on cannabis tours
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‘How am I abusing my child?’: woman panhandling with infant rejects criticism

Megan Doudney, homeless with a six-week-old child, has seen support from some corners while others have confronted her in person and on social media

Anything helps, reads the sign that Megan Doudney lays out in front of her baby buggy as she nestles her six-week-old infant in her arms while panhandling on San Franciscos Market Street.

But the 34-year-old homeless mother has received a lot more than the financial help she was hoping for.

While Doudney has received an outpouring of support from some, others have unleashed a maelstrom of criticism on social media against her and panhandling with children that have turned into face-to-face confrontations on the street and 911 calls reporting her.

outside in america

Its just harassment, said the mother, who is currently staying with her baby and two dogs at a city-funded, temporary family shelter run by Hamilton Families. Doudney, who has a severe back condition and receives social security payments, said she used the money she collected panhandling to cover extra expenses and to save money for a future deposit on an apartment.

A lot of people assume I cant take care of the baby, she said, as she held her daughter, Nedahilla, in a blue fleecy blanket and fed her out of a pink butterfly bottle. These people want to take her from me. In what way, shape or form am I abusing my child?

The case comes at a time when panhandling is under renewed debate around the country. This month, New Yorks mayor, Bill de Blasio, claimed that panhandling was something people did because they think its fun and said he would ban it if he could. Sacramento is considering making it a crime to panhandle at intersections, ATMs and gas stations. Meanwhile, an economist at Columbia University has written that it would make more sense to accredit panhandlers than ban them and a not-for-profit organization in Seattle has launched a new app that does just that.

On Monday, Deidre Laiken, a 70-year-old former teacher from North Beach, conducted a one-woman protest, holding a picket sign next to Doudney which read: Women against child abuse.

Most people think about this poor woman, but they dont think about the child, said Laiken, who learned about the case from social media. One of the definitions of child abuse is using a child for exploitation or financial gain. This woman is making a lot of money.

The real issues were desperation and poverty, said Nick Kimura of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. Its a much bigger issue than her sitting on the sidewalk, said Kimura, a longtime volunteer for the organization. The reason shes doing this is because shes poor. Its not something people are choosing to do. The question is: how is this intervention helping?

Originally from Nebraska, Doudney moved to San Francisco about five years ago, after losing the home where she was living in Minnesota. I had some choices. I could be homeless in Minnesota, where I would freeze to death, or I could be homeless in California.

Doudney, who walks with a severely hunched back, has suffered severe pain since she was a child. She said she had been taking opioid medications for years, but was able to quit once she arrived in California, where medical marijuana is legal.

Doudney first gained attention on social media, when a woman who frequently passed her on the street posted photographs of the baby on the local social media app Nextdoor.

In early July, several Nextdoor users went to see the baby and mother, who was panhandling on Market Street. One of them noticed the baby looked sick and called 911. A few minutes later, two or three police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck showed up, according to Doudney. The paramedics assessed the baby on the spot and determined it had low blood sugar, she said. The medics transported the baby and the mother to the hospital, where the baby was treated and released.

They called 911 because they said the baby was discolored, said Doudney. They said she looked like she was unconscious. Of course she looks like shes unconscious shes a sleeping baby! It was just crazy.

One user of social media posted photos showing the baby stroller sitting unattended on Market Street, except for a homeless person in a wheelchair nearby. The woman posted remarks saying she had documented the baby being left alone in its stroller for up to 40 minutes.

I called CPS and said this cant be legal, said Erica Sandberg, another Nextdoor user, who also posted about the baby on Facebook and was there the day the ambulance took the baby and mom to the hospital.

Doudney said: The allegations that I leave her alone are absolutely untrue. I can take her everywhere except into the cannabis club.

Doudney said she has had her friend in a wheelchair stay with the baby outside the club while she goes inside.

Homeless service providers argue that in San Francisco, where there is virtually no affordable housing available, the problem that needs to be addressed is getting homeless families into safe, stable situations.

Rachel Kenemore of Hamilton Families said the number of homeless families in the city has jumped from around 600 in 2007 to more than 1100 today. There are so many families needing housing that there is a wait of six to nine months to get into shelter programs.

She said it doesnt help to demonize families in need: Lets be part of the solution on this. What can we do to be supportive to members of our community who need help?

Many passersby greet Doudney enthusiastically as she panhandles, some handing her dollar bills. One man comes by to offer some money and then returns with some doughnuts; another stops to offer a sports jersey he cannot use. But others are more critical.

Why is your baby out here? one woman calls out as she quickly walks by.

Doudney shakes her head and says she has no intention of being scared away by these critics. I do what I need to for my child.

Do you have an experience of homelessness to share with the Guardian? Get in touch

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/31/homeless-baby-san-francisco-panhandling

Marissa Safont‘How am I abusing my child?’: woman panhandling with infant rejects criticism
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Jeff Sessions is leading America back into Reefer Madness | Jamie Peck

The US attorney general is trying to undo the progress made in liberalizing marijuana consumption in the US. This will only lead to more people in jail

Once upon a time, the 1936 film Reefer Madness attempted to spread sensationalistic messages about marijuana to youths across the land. Just one toke, the film warned, and you could be setting off down the primrose path to murder, hallucinations, rape, suicide, and yes, the titular madness. Yikes!

Luckily for fans of the plant, we now know the worst effects of marijuana are smokers cough, laziness and a predilection for salty junk food. Furthermore, studies have shown it can be used to treat a vast array of health problems, from glaucoma to the nausea caused by chemotherapy.

The total number of fatal marijuana overdoses per year remains steady at zero. Why, its almost like pot is no big deal, and we should be allowed to have it if we want.

This knowledge, plus widespread social acceptance a recent Gallup poll found that one in eight US adults admits to smoking the stuff, and more than half have tried it have led to a gradual liberalization of marijuana laws on the state level, to the point where 29 states plus Washington DC have legalized medical marijuana.

Eight states have gone a step further and legalized it for recreational use, allowing people over the age of 21 to enjoy it responsibly. In 2016 alone, the citizens of eight states voted to relax their laws on recreational and/or medical marijuana, one of few progressive victories in an otherwise depressing election. (Perhaps because its one of a few issues that unites progressives and libertarian-leaning conservatives.) It would seem a critical mass of Americans is coming to accept the popular plant as the relatively harmless, potentially helpful substance it is.

But all that progress may soon come to a halt. As threatened back in February, Donald Trumps Department of Justice has plans to aggressively go after states that have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana the latter despite Sean Spicers promise that Trump sees a big difference between the two.

After making baseless statements that marijuana is only slightly less awful than heroin and that good people dont smoke marijuana, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions who once joked that he thought the violent white supremacists of the KKK were okay until I found out they smoked pot has established a task force to investigate the connection between marijuana and violent crime.

He might learn that legalizing marijuana has actually been shown to reduce violent crime in some instances and leave it unaffected in others. But, in case anyone thought he was waiting for the task forces findings to come in before acting, in May he wrote a letter to congressional leaders asking them to roll back protections put in place by the previous Congress. These use the power of the purse to keep the Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana in states that have voted to legalize it.

In said letter, he referred to a historic drug epidemic, willfully conflating marijuana use with the crisis of opiate addiction plaguing our country. (Sessions either doesnt know or doesnt care that opiate deaths have actually decreased in states that have legalized medical marijuana, partly because it can serve as a gentler alternative to addictive prescription painkillers.)

He scapegoats marijuana for violent crime once more. He even claims marijuana is linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, which sounds a lot like reefer madness to me. As with Trumps Muslim ban, Sessions notes this issue is too important to respect the rights of states to make their own laws. In Sessions bigoted eyes, states rights are only important when it comes to the passage of bills designed to discriminate against transgender people who wish to use the bathroom.

This approach is a departure from that of the Obama administration, whose relationship with the states on marijuana was more mixed. While Barack Obama raided growers in states that had legalized weed from time to time, the Department of Justice stated in a 2013 memo that it would not challenge state marijuana laws, provided the drug was adequately regulated. Obama also took some small steps to reform our criminal justice system, particularly where non-violent drug crimes were concerned.

While the fallout from legal marijuana is far from proven, the fallout from the ineffective war on drugs can be measured in lives ruined, particularly the lives of people of color. By 2001, there were 2 million people in our countrys prisons, and nearly one in three black men ages 20-29 was caught up in the deeply flawed criminal justice system.

Racial profiling, uneven enforcement, disparities in sentencing, and unequal access to lawyers have all helped ensure the majority of people in jail for drug offenses are black and Latino, despite the fact that black and white Americans use drugs at similar rates.

In rolling back states attempts at more sensible drug policy, Sessions seeks to bring us back to the days when misinformation and hysteria beat out science and reason, and the government used the war on drugs as an excuse to go after anti-war hippies and African-Americans, as a former Nixon official was once quoted admitting.

Our only hope is that the rollout of this policy is as botched as everything else the Trump administration has tried to do. Which, judging from recent history, is entirely possible.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/jeff-sessions-against-weed-reefer-madness-marijuana

Marissa SafontJeff Sessions is leading America back into Reefer Madness | Jamie Peck
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California, Nevada and Massachusetts vote to legalize recreational marijuana

How Americans voted on a range of ballot initiatives around the country

Voters around the US cast ballots for a diverse range of initiatives that seek to reform laws on marijuana, the death penalty, climate change and more. Below are results in the most important contests.

Marijuana

Approved: California voters approved recreational marijuana, a huge victory in the fight for cannabis legalization, paving the way for the largest commercial pot market in the US.

Approved: Massachusetts also voted for recreational pot, extending legal weed from coast to coast.

Approved: Nevada became the third state to approve a recreational cannabis law, making the west an even stronger region for marijuana sales.

Approved: Earlier in the night, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, the first victory in a string of high-profile cannabis measures on Tuesdays state ballots.

Approved: North Dakota was the second state to approve medical weed, with the approval of Measure 5, which approves the use of marijuana to treat a number of diseases, including cancer, Aids, epilepsy and hepatitis C.

Approved: Arkansas also passed a medical cannabis measure that would allow patients with specific conditions to buy medicine from dispensaries licensed by the government.

Rejected: Arizona was the first state to vote against its marijuana measure, with the news early on Wednesday morning that voters have rejected Proposition 205. The measure would have legalized recreational pot.

Approved: Montana residents voted to expand the states medical marijuana system with the passage of Initiative 182, which removes limits on the number of patients providers can serve. Proponents of the measure argued that the existing restrictions blocked patients from accessing care.

Advocates and opponents agree that Californias Proposition 64 is the most important cannabis measure America has seen and could be an international game-changer for marijuana policy in the US.

California, which recently overtook the UK to have the fifth largest economy in the world, is expected to have a recreational marijuana market greater than Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska combined, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

When I talk to everybody from allies to government officials in Mexico and I ask them whats it going to take to transform the debate, he said, the response to me is when California legalizes marijuana.

Too close to call: As of Wednesday afternoon, a recreational measure in Maine was still too close to call.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, paving the way for Oregon, and Alaska to follow suit.

As medical and retail cannabis operations have spread across the US, legal marijuana has become the fastest-growing industry in the US, with some analysts projecting sales to reach $22bn by 2020.

People
People gather for an election watch party put on by supporters of a legal marijuana initiative in Phoenix, Arizona. Photograph: Nancy Wiechec/Reuters

Although dozens of states have also taken steps to authorize medical marijuana or decriminalize pot, cannabis remains an illegal drug at the federal level.

Opponents of legalization, who have spent millions campaigning against this years measures, have argued that pot shops pose public safety risks and lead to an increase in adolescent drug abuse.

But supporters of the measures have argued that ending marijuana prohibition is critical for eliminating the war on drugs that has fueled mass incarceration and disproportionately affected people of color.

Some studies have also cast doubts on fears that legalization leads to higher rates of teen abuse, and backers of legalization further point to the big tax revenues the commercial industries have raised, exceeding initial projections.

Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and an expert in drug policy, predicted that as more states legalize pot, there will be a continual decline in marijuana arrests.

Youll see plunging prices all over, he added, and youre going to have a lot more consumption.

Tuesdays victories could encourage other states and Congress to pursue similar reforms, said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

It emboldens legislators to take on the issue and treat it more seriously.

Supporters
Supporters of medical marijuana wave signs at passing traffic at a street corner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photograph: Amy Beth Bennett/AP

Death penalty

Rejected: California rejected a high-profile measure to repeal the death penalty, which would have ended capital punishment and taken 741 inmates off of death row, instead sentencing them to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Too close to call: As of Wednesday afternoon, the states competing death penalty measure Proposition 66, designed to speed up executions was still too close to call. If it passes, the measure would be a major loss for death penalty opponents across the nation, who have fought for years to make California a leader in repealing capital punishment.

Approved: Oklahoma passed a measure to reaffirm the states commitment to the death penalty after the state attorney general suspended executions last year. Question 776, known as the Allow Any Execution Method, protects the death penalty in the constitution, blocking it from being declared cruel or unusual punishment.

Approved: Nebraska voters passed an unusual ballot measure to reinstate the death penalty after state lawmakers repealed it in 2015. The vote is a big loss for opponents of capital punishment given that Nebraska was the first conservative state to repeal the death penalty in more than 40 years.

The
The lethal injection facility at San Quentin state prison in California. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Minimum wage

Approved: Arizona became the first state to raise the minimum wage on Tuesday night, with a Proposition 206 victory, raising the rate to $12 an hour by 2020. The measure also requires employers to provide paid sick time to workers.

Approved: Washington states proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour was also successful on Tuesday.

Approved: Colorado voters also approved a measure to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, which some studies suggest will boost incomes for 20% of households in the state.

Approved: Maines minimum wage increase proposal was another victory on Tuesday, solidifying a successful night for the Fight for $15 labor movement that has fought to make salary improvements for low-wage workers a national issue. Maines Question 4 also calls for $12 by 2020.

Rejected: South Dakota was an outlier this year with a referendum on whether to lower the minimum wage for workers younger than 18. But residents voted against the states Referred Law 20, which would have exempted youth from South Dakotas new minimum wage, increased to $8.50 in 2014.

The
The Fight for $15 labor movement helped put minimum wage increase initiatives on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Media

Climate change

Rejected: Washington residents voted against a measure called Initiative 732, which called for the first carbon tax in the US. It would have cost emitters $25 for each ton of carbon dioxide from 2018. It would have increased gradually over the course of 40 years to $100 a ton.

Rejected: Florida voters said no to Amendment 1, a measure that would have restricted the ability of homeowners to sell electricity they create through rooftop solar panels to the grid. Environmental groups said the measure was fundamentally dishonest because it was backed by the states large utilities and could have hurt the regional solar industry.

Healthcare

Rejected: Colorado has voted against the creation of a single-payer healthcare system that would have made the state the first in the country to have universal, government-run healthcare. Amendment 69, also known as ColoradoCare, would have created a $36bn health system designed to ensure that every resident of the state is served. The program, which called for a new 10% payroll tax, would have replaced the private health insurance system. The defeat is a big win for major medical providers such as Anthem and Kaiser, which helped finance the opposition campaign.

Rejected: A California health proposal that received national attention thanks to an endorsement from US senator Bernie Sanders ultimately failed to earn enough votes. The state rejected Proposition 61, which would have restricted California from spending more on prescription drugs than the prices paid by the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

Opponents had spent $109m against the proposition, which the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposed. Sanders had said he hopes the measure would spark a national movement to lower drug prices.

Colorado
Colorado is voting on a single-payer healthcare system, and California is voting on prescription drug prices. Photograph: Voisin/Phanie/Rex/Shutterstock

Guns

Approved: Washington state passed the first gun control ballot measure of the night, with the approval of Initiative 1491, which allows courts to issue protection orders to remove an individuals access to firearms, such as domestic abusers.

Approved: California voters followed suit, passing a proposal that requires people buying ammunition to undergo background checks and outlaws possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Approved: Nevada voters narrowly passed a measure to expand background checks, requiring that firearm transfers go through a licensed dealer. The proposal exempts transfers between immediate family members.

Rejected: Gun control advocates were dealt a major blow in Maine with the narrow defeat of Question 3, a measure that called for universal background checks. The proposal was supported by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and would have been a big victory for gun safety groups in a state that has traditionally supported gun rights.

Homelessness

Approved: A group of San Franciscos tech billionaires and millionaires successfully passed a measure to ban tents that homeless people use to sleep on the street. Opponents have slammed Proposition Q funded by venture capitalist Michael Moritz, angel investor Ron Conway and hedge fund manager William Oberndorf as a cruel proposal that further criminalizes homeless people without providing new funding for housing or services. Critics have also pointed out that local shelters have long waitlists for beds and that city workers already conduct regular sweeps of homeless encampments.

Approved: In Los Angeles, another city that has struggled with a homeless epidemic, voters approved a measure that creates a $1.2bn investment over 10 years to support housing and programs through the issuance of bonds.

Both
Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have high-profile measures aimed to tackle homelessness in the west. Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Other initiatives

Rejected: California voted against Proposition 60, a controversial proposal that would have required pornography performers to wear condoms during film shoots. Performers opposed the measure, arguing that industry testing protocols are effective and that the proposal would have opened the door for private citizens to file lawsuits against producers and actors.

Approved: Indiana and Kansas both passed so-called right to hunt measures on Tuesday by wide margins.

Those victories are part of an ongoing movement to enshrine a constitutional right to hunt and fish. Since 1996, 18 states have amended their constitutions to establish hunting and fishing as inalienable rights.

The measures are politically popular, even though critics have argued that there are no legitimate threats to hunting or fishing.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/08/state-ballot-initiative-election-results-live-marijuana-death-penalty-healthcare

Marissa SafontCalifornia, Nevada and Massachusetts vote to legalize recreational marijuana
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Study finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug

People taking mushrooms in 2016 needed medical treatment less than for MDMA, LSD and cocaine, while one of the riskiest drugs was synthetic cannabis

Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this years Global Drug Survey.

Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016, just 0.2% of them said they needed emergency medical treatment a rate at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine.

Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world, said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, pointing out that the bigger risk was people picking and eating the wrong mushrooms.

Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.

Global Drug Survey 2017, with almost 120,000 participants in 50 countries, is the worlds biggest annual drug survey, with questions that cover the types of substances people take, patterns of use and whether they experienced any negative effects.

Overall, 28,000 people said they had taken magic mushrooms at some point in their lives, with 81.7% seeking a moderate psychedelic experience and the enhancement of environment and social interactions.

The
The Global Drug Survey 2017 reveals the percentage of people who reported taking certain drugs in the last 12 months who also sought emergency medical treatment. Photograph: Global Drug Survey 2017

Magic mushrooms arent completely harmless, notes Winstock. Combined use with alcohol and use within risky or unfamiliar settings increase the risks of harm most commonly accidental injury, panic and short lived confusion, disorientation and fears of losing ones mind.

In some cases people can experience panic attacks and flashbacks, he added, so his advice for people thinking about taking them is to plan your trip carefully with trusted company in a safe place and always know what mushrooms you are using.

Even bad trips can have positive outcomes, according to a separate piece of research carried out by Roland Griffiths and Robert Jesse at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In their 2016 paper they surveyed almost 2,000 individuals about their single most psychologically difficult or challenging experience with magic mushrooms. Of that group, 2.7% received medical help and 7.6% sought treatment for enduring psychological symptoms. Nevertheless 84% of those surveyed said they benefitted from the experience.

In a way, its not really so surprising, said Griffiths in a Q&A about the paper. When we look back on challenging life events we wouldnt choose, like a bout with a major disease, a harrowing experience while rock-climbing, or a painful divorce, sometimes we feel later that the difficult experience made us notably stronger or wiser. We might even come to value what happened.

Outside of recreational use, magic mushrooms have been shown in clinical trials to treat severe depression and anxiety.

Of the almost 10,000 LSD consumers who took part in GDS 2017, around 1% of them 95 individuals reported seeking emergency medical treatment, five times more than those who took magic mushrooms.

LSD is such a potent drug, said Winstock. Its so difficult to dose accurately when tabs you buy vary so widely. Its easy to take too much and have an experience beyond the one you were expecting.

He added that drug manufacturers are starting to incorporate novel super potent psychedelics such as NBOMe into tabs, which adds to the risk. He suggests making efforts to get a reliable, trustworthy supply and always take a tiny dose to start, waiting a few hours before taking more.

One of the riskiest drugs, according to the survey, was synthetic cannabis. Over one in 30 of users in the sample sought emergency medical treatment the highest of any drug studied except crystal methamphetamine. That rises to one in 10 among people who use the drug at least 50 times per year. These figures echo the data from the previous years report.

Synthetic cannabis, sold as spice and black mamba, is an umbrella term for hundreds of chemical compounds that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, in the brain. These synthetic forms are often extremely potent, cheap and odourless, which has led to them flooding the market in the US and Europe. Theyve been particularly popular in prisons in the UK, where theyve had a devastating impact and have been linked to deaths, serious illness and episodes of self-harm among inmates.

Brad Burge from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps) urged caution on relying on peoples self reports for data as people often take multiple drugs at the same time, so you cant be sure which one is causing the problem.

He also highlighted that seeking emergency medical treatment means different things for different drugs. With a drug such as heroin, a trip to the emergency room is a life-or-death situation requiring resuscitation and medication. With LSD or mushrooms, there is no toxicity and the effects wear after a few hours.

There is no known lethal dose for LSD or pure psilocybin, he said.

Both Winstock and Burge said that the findings indicate a need for drug policy reform, with a focus on shifting psychedelics off the schedule one list of the most dangerous controlled substances.

Drug laws need to balance the positives and problems they can create in society and well crafted laws should nudge people to find the right balance for themselves, said Winstock.

People dont tend to abuse psychedelics, they dont get dependent, they dont rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive. But you need to know how to use them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/23/study-hallucinogenic-mushrooms-safest-recreational-drug-lsd

Marissa SafontStudy finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug
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