‘Seize all cannabis’: Inside the surprising federal crackdown on New Mexico weed farmers

“Drug cartels and human traffickers aren’t the only people dodging border patrol officers these days in southern New Mexico. The state’s cannabis businesses — which operate legally under state law — are also desperately trying to evade border checkpoints.
That’s because U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized more than $300,000 of state-licensed cannabis in New Mexico in the last two months. These seizures occurred at border patrol checkpoints, some of which lie as far as 80 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

The crackdown has created tension between the Biden administration and Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham — who championed marijuana legalization and touted it as an economic boon for the state. The enforcement actions are occurring as the Justice Department is preparing to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana, which would mark the biggest liberalization of drug policy in more than half a century.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/05/01/federal-crackdown-new-mexico-weed-farmers-00155624

Government Data Refute the Notion That Overprescribing Caused the ‘Opioid Crisis’

Government Data Refute the Notion That Overprescribing Caused the ‘Opioid Crisis’

https://reason.com/2024/04/15/government-data-refute-the-notion-that-overprescribing-caused-the-opioid-crisis/

Political Stupidity and Bureaucratic Bungling Created New York’s Pot Legalization ‘Disaster’

“New York’s rollout of marijuana legalization has been a “disaster,” as Hochul conceded in January. “Every other storefront” is an unlicensed pot shop, she told The Buffalo News. “It’s insane.”
That disaster has frustrated would-be retailers, left farmers in the lurch, played havoc with tax revenue projections, and made a joke out of any expectation that New York, by learning from the experience of states that legalized marijuana earlier, would do a better job of displacing the black market. The insanity that Hochul perceives is a product of bad decisions by politicians who should have known better and obstruction by regulators who sacrificed efficiency on the altar of diversity.

Unlike states such as New Jersey, where voters approved legalization in 2020, and Maryland, where a similar ballot initiative passed two years later, New York did not initially allow existing medical dispensaries to start serving the recreational market. Its slow and complicated licensing process, which was skewed by an “equity” program that prioritized approval of applicants with marijuana-related criminal records or their relatives, is maddeningly hard to navigate.

Those preferences invited lawsuits by people who were excluded, which further delayed approval of licenses. Guidance and financial help for people struggling to jump through the state’s hoops never materialized. And as in other states, high taxes and burdensome regulations have made it hard for licensed businesses to compete with unauthorized dealers.”

https://reason.com/2024/03/22/political-stupidity-and-bureaucratic-bungling-created-new-yorks-pot-legalization-disaster/

DEA Shuts Down Drug Factory Even as Adderall Shortage Persists

“For more than a year, the U.S. has experienced a shortage of Adderall, the medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Now, while continuing to deny its own role in the shortage, the federal government is making the problem worse by threatening manufacturers that could help ameliorate the crisis.
In October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a shortage of amphetamine mixed salts, Adderall’s primary ingredient. The announcement noted that manufacturers were “experiencing ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays” and it anticipated that the shortage could last until March 2023.

As Reason has reported since the FDA’s first announcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) imposes production caps on Schedule I and II narcotics. Each year, drug manufacturers apply for a piece of the overall quotas. Even after a spike in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DEA did not lift the production quotas on the ingredients used to make Adderall or its equivalents.”

“In April 2022, Ascent submitted its annual quota applications for 11 total drugs, but instead of a speedy approval, the company was subjected to a DEA audit.

Investigators pored over Ascent’s books and identified discrepancies that indicated sloppy record keeping. For its part, the company admitted to committing infractions, though the details seem needlessly petty: In one example, “orders struck from [DEA forms] must be crossed out with a line and the word cancel written next to them,” Walsh wrote. “Investigators found two instances in which Ascent employees had drawn the line but failed to write the word.”

The audit forced Ascent to shut down production at its facility on Long Island, near New York City; company officials told New York that this constituted 600 million annual doses that it is unable to produce. It began laying off workers after more than a year in regulatory limbo.

Ascent sued in September 2023, seeking an injunction “compelling DEA to respond, to Ascent’s applications for quotas.” The DEA quickly denied all of Ascent’s quota applications, saying that it “lacks confidence in the data provided by Ascent in its quota requests” but giving no specifics.”

“It’s entirely possible that Ascent did keep shoddy records, and perhaps it did misplace doses of drugs like opioids or stimulants that are ripe for abuse (allegations that the company denies). But the DEA’s policy of artificially constraining the supply of those drugs continues to harm those patients who actually need them.”

https://reason.com/2024/02/26/dea-shuts-down-drug-factory-even-as-adderall-shortage-persists/

The Newly Unveiled HHS Rationale for Rescheduling Marijuana Underlines Drug Warriors’ Dishonesty

“it was clear that Biden did not expect HHS to confirm its previous position that marijuana belongs in Schedule I. He expected HHS to recommend that marijuana be moved to a lower schedule, which is what it ultimately did. As the details of the HHS recommendation clarify, that decision was not based on new scientific evidence. It was based on a reinterpretation of the criteria for Schedule I that could have been implemented much sooner if HHS and the DEA had been open to it, or if a previous president had encouraged it.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/15/the-newly-unveiled-hhs-rationale-for-rescheduling-marijuana-underlines-drug-warriors-dishonesty/

Guns, Germs, and Drugs Are Largely Responsible for the Decline in U.S. Life Expectancy

“So why did U.S. life expectancy trends slow and then peak in 2014? And what, if anything, can policy makers and politicians realistically do to make increasing it a priority? As noted above, the big recent dip largely resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2023 Scientific Reports article “estimated that US life expectancy at birth dropped by 3.08 years due to the million COVID-19 deaths” between February 2020 and May 2022. But let’s set aside that steep post-2020 downtick in life expectancy resulting from nearly 1.2 million Americans dying of COVID-19 infections.

A 2020 study in Health Affairs chiefly attributed the 3.3-year increase in U.S. life expectancy between 1990 and 2015 to public health, better pharmaceuticals, and improvements in medical care. By public health, the authors meant such things as campaigns to reduce smoking, increase cancer screenings and seat belt usage, improve auto and traffic safety, and increase awareness of the danger of stomach sleep for infants. With respect to pharmaceuticals, they cited the significant reduction in cardiovascular diseases that resulted from the introduction of effective drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

So a big part of what propelled increases in U.S. life expectancy is the fact that the percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen from 43 percent in the 1970s to 16 percent now. Smoking is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and cancers, rates of which have been dropping for decades. In addition, the rising percentage of Americans who are college graduates correlated with increasing life expectancy.

However, since the 2004 peak, countervailing increases in the death rates from drug overdoses, firearms, traffic accidents, and diseases associated with obesity contributed to the flattening of U.S. life expectancy trends.

A 2021 comprehensive analysis of the recent stagnation and decline in U.S. life expectancy in the Annual Review of Public Health (ARPH) largely concurs, finding that “the proximate causes of the decline are increases in opioid overdose deaths, suicide, homicide, and Alzheimer’s disease.” Interestingly, the U.S. trend in Alzheimer’s disease prevalence has been downward since 2011. In addition, the ARPH review noted that “a slowdown in the long-term decline in mortality from cardiovascular diseases has also prevented life expectancy from improving further.” So enabling and persuading more properly diagnosed Americans to take blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications would likely boost overall life expectancy.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/08/guns-germs-and-drugs-are-largely-responsible-for-the-decline-in-u-s-life-expectancy/

Cocaine, cartels, and corruption: The crisis in Ecuador, explained

“Ecuador, according to its president Daniel Noboa, is now “in a state of war.” Earlier this week he had announced a state of emergency after the leader of one of the country’s top two gangs escaped from prison. The following day, armed gang members stormed the TC Television news program, broadcasting their hostage-taking and violence live to make an announcement of their own.
It was far from the only act of shocking violence the country has suffered this week.

In what appeared to be a coordinated campaign Tuesday — and one with a brazenness that recalled Mexico’s cartels in the mid-2010s, or worse — armed men stormed hospitals, businesses, and universities. Prisons were taken over in violent riots, bombs were set off in multiple locations, and police and prison guards were kidnapped and murdered. At least 10 people were killed in gang attacks, including police, and over a hundred prison staff were taken hostage.

It may seem like an inexplicable turn for Ecuador, a country that many experts, including Felipe Botero, a program head at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, told Vox used to be an “island of peace” in an often-troubled region.

But this turn to violence in an upper-middle-income country of 18 million didn’t happen overnight.

While there are factors that accelerated a spike in crime over the last couple of years, experts say this is a story nearly a decade in the making. Ecuador’s security crisis is the product of years of growing impunity enjoyed by gangs, the influence of transnational crime groups, shifts in global cocaine consumption, and, above all, increasing institutional corruption.

That means even with President Noboa’s promised military crackdown, this chaos won’t be solved overnight.”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/2024/1/11/24034891/ecuador-drugs-cocaine-cartels-violence-murder-daniel-naboa-columbia-crime