TIME Drugs

Dad Thinks He Has a Stroke After Accidentally Eating Daughter’s Pot Brownies

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Thomas Barwick—Getty Images Double-chocolate brownie missing one bite

The 17-year-old admitted to putting a special ingredient in the baked goods

A father in Michigan called 911 after mistakenly eating several pot brownies his daughter had baked the night before. He said he thought he was having a stroke.

Firefighters and policemen responded to the call, at which point officials say the man’s 17-year-old daughter admitted to putting a special ingredient in the baked goods: marijuana. Police did not release the names of the father and daughter.

The 58-year-old father was taken to the hospital but has since been released and is in good health. Police took the remaining brownies to a lab for analysis. Officials said they had not yet determined whether the teenager would be charged with possession, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Though medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, those who don’t hold a medical marijuana card can be charged with a misdemeanor. Those found guilty face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized or legalized marijuana.

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME HIV/AIDS

HIV Triggers a Public Health Emergency in Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.
Darron Cummings—AP Indiana Gov. Mike Pence responds to a question during a news conference, March 25, 2015, in Scottsburg, Ind.

Intravenous drug use identified as the source of infections

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency Thursday in south Indiana’s Scott County, which has seen a large HIV flare-up from intravenous drug use.

At least 79 HIV confirmed cases have been tied to the southern Indiana country since January, up from fewer than five new cases in a typical year, and the state expects that figure to rise as officials scramble to alert up to 100 people linked to those newly infected. Intravenous drug use has been named as the primary infection source in every confirmed case.

“This is all-hands-on-deck. This is a very serious situation,” Pence said at a news conference on Thursday.

The emergency order will set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment. Pence also authorized a temporary needle-exchange program, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the governor had previously said he opposed the practice.

“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the Governor said in a statement. “ I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

Read next: This Map Shows the Deadliest Counties in the U.S.

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Drugs

Colorado Study Confirms Pot Way Stronger Than It Used to Be

Legally-grown marijuana grows at a dispensary in Denver on May 8, 2014.
Brennan Linsley—AP Legally-grown marijuana grows at a dispensary in Denver on May 8, 2014.

The study further detected little medical value and lots of contamination in hundreds of samples tested

This is not your father’s weed.

Colorado marijuana is nearly twice as potent as illegal pot of past decades, and some modern cannabis packs triple the punch of vintage ganja, lab tests reveal for the first time.

In old-school dope, levels of THC — the psychoactive chemical that makes people high — were typically well below 10 percent. But in Colorado’s legal bud, the average THC level is 18.7 percent, and some retail pot contains 30 percent THC or more, according to research released Monday.

“That was higher than expected,” said Andy LaFrate, president of Charas Scientific. His Denver lab is licensed by…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

Former FBI Agent Stole Heroin to Treat Ulcer Pain, Attorney Says

More than 24 drug offenders had their charges dismissed because of evidence tampering

The attorney for a former FBI agent who plans to plead guilty to 64 criminal counts for stealing heroin from evidence bags said that his client took the drugs to treat his ulcer pain.

Matthew Lowry, 33, was found unconscious in his car at the end of September after a heroin overdose and later admitted to stealing heroin from evidence rooms. The evidence tampering resulted in the dismissal of more than two dozen federal drug cases, the Washington Post reports.

“Matt Lowry is devastated by the consequences of his conduct, particularly as it has affected the drug investigations that he, his fellow law enforcement officers, and prosecutors had spent so much time developing and pursuing,” his attorney Robert C. Bonsib said in a statement.

But Bonsib also said that Lowry’s actions could be explained by a series of unfortunate medical events. According to Bonsib, Lowry turned to heroin after he got addicted to powerful pain medications used to treat his ulcerative colitis. The medication was prescribed by a doctor who did not warn Lowry about the addictive potential of the drugs, and subsequently disappeared. Lowry attempted to “go ‘cold turkey,'” Bonsib said, but “the addiction was overpowering and the pain from the ulcerative colitis was unbearable.”

“This is how Mr. Lowry turned to self-medication by the use of the drugs in this case,” Bonsib said.

Lowry, who is married and has a young son, is currently in a drug treatment program. He faces 64 federal criminal charges: 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, 13 counts of possession of heroin and 20 counts of obstruction of justice.

TIME Drugs

New Senate Bill Could Solve Medical Marijuana’s Tax Problems

Katy Steinmetz / TIME Bryan and Lanette Davies pose for a portrait at their "Christian-based" medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento in February 2014.

The bill aimed at healing the sick could save dispensary owners lots of money

When Bryan and Lanette Davies got an $875,000 bill from the Internal Revenue Service, they didn’t pay it. Instead, they took the IRS to court, arguing that a 1982 law meant to prevent drug traffickers from deducting business expenses should not apply to Canna Care, their small “Christian-based” medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento—or any other medical marijuana dispensary legal under state law.

The couple is in the midst of a years-long legal battle over these expenses, arguing that marijuana dispensaries should be treated like most other small businesses and be allowed to deduct payroll, rent and health benefits from their taxable income.

But a new bill introduced in the Senate could help bring their trial to a conclusion.

On March 10, three Senators introduced a historic bill called the CARERS Act that would end the federal ban on medical marijuana, clearing up the discrepancy between federal law that considers pot an illegal drug and the 23 state laws that sanction the use of medical weed. The bill explicitly does several things: It would reschedule marijuana as a drug with known medical uses to allow for research. It would allow banks to work with dispensaries—both medical and recreational—without fear of being prosecuted for money laundering. And it would create an exception in the Controlled Substances Act that essentially says it doesn’t apply to medical marijuana in states where that substance has been legalized. That last part may help solve legal pot’s tax problem.

An obscure bit of the tax code known as 280E states that businesses in violation of the Controlled Substances Act can’t take a tax deduction or receive any credits for any expenses connected with their trafficking of illegal drugs, which is what medical marijuana dispensaries are currently doing in the eyes of the federal government. (Due to a tax court ruling, the one deduction they can take is for the cost of goods sold). The costs can be crippling, and politicians have joined dispensary owners in saying that prohibiting cocaine dealers from writing off the boats they bought to ship the drug, as one lawyer put it, is not the same as businesses deducting quotidian operating costs while on the right side of the law in their state.

In 2010, a group of Congress members, including Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, sent letters to the IRS asking the agency to interpret the tax code in a way that would allow medical marijuana businesses to be taxed on net income instead of gross income. This is what the IRS told those members of Congress in response:

Because neither section 280E nor the Controlled Substances Act makes exception for medically necessary marijuana, we lack the authority to publish the guidance that you request. The result you seek would require the Congress to amend either the Internal Revenue Code or the Controlled Substances Act.

Legal experts have said that the IRS’ hands are essentially tied. If this bill passes, University of Denver’s Sam Kamin says that may be enough for the IRS to loosen the rope and issue that guidance. “It definitely puts marijuana on much sounder footing and makes much clearer what the legal rights of marijuana businesses are,” he says.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, who worked with the Senators’ offices on the Hill to craft the bill, is more absolute in his interpretation: “It resolves the 280E issue.”

Both of them agree that the bill has the potential to affect other areas of life too, in states where medical marijuana is legal. It may prevent people from being fired for using marijuana as medicine. Parents may no longer lose custody of their kids for having medical marijuana in the house. Known medical-marijuana users could be allowed to legally own a firearm; if a drug user or addict currently possesses a firearm, that’s punishable by up to 10 years of jail time.

Malik Burnett, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance—which also had a hand in crafting the bill—cautions that these are only potential interpretations of a potential law and that separate, explicit legislation should be passed if reform advocates want to definitively solve these issues. But he says the bill would enable lawyers to make stronger arguments to protect clients who use medical marijuana. “You would certainly have more solid ground to stand on,” he says.

Since being introduced, the bill has gained two cosponsors: Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and, as of Monday, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. Despite bipartisan support for the bill, it remains unclear whether it will be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Davieses, in an interview for a previous article on their legal battle, said that they not only see themselves as a legitimate business but as a force of positive change in society. Lanette Davis said she felt they were being unfairly punished. “It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill. Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community,” Lanette said. “What we try very hard to provide is a way for people to get well.”

TIME Music

Philippines Imposes ‘Weed Bond’ on One Direction

1D 3rd year as UK's most successful act
Ian West—Press Association Images/AP From left, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles of One Direction on Nov. 12, 2014

The Philippines is requiring two One Direction members to post bonds worth nearly $5,000 each, forfeited if they're caught using or promoting illegal drugs while in Manila

(MANILA) — The Philippine Bureau of Immigration is requiring two members of the English-Irish band One Direction to post bonds worth nearly $5,000 each, to be forfeited if they are caught using or impliedly promoting illegal drugs while in Manila for their concert this weekend.

The bureau’s spokeswoman Elaine Tan said Thursday Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison required Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson to post 200,000 pesos ($4,470) bond and 20,000 pesos ($447) processing fee each through their concert producer for their special work permits. The five-member band performs on March 21 and 22 at the seaside Mall of Asia Concert Grounds.

The Anti-Drugs Advocate group has called on the bureau to strictly scrutinize the band members’ permits following a video that circulated on the Internet of Malik and Tomlinson purportedly smoking marijuana.

TIME Drugs

These Five States Could Legalize Marijuana in 2016

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Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images A vendor weighs marijuana for card-carrying medical marijuana patients attending Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market in Los Angeles, July 4, 2014.

Nevada's vote is set and advocates believe they can get similar measures on the ballot in four other states

On Friday, Nevada lawmakers adjourned without voting on a petition submitted by residents to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. That means the initiative is going on the ballot in 2016, making Nevada the first state to officially be voting on pot legalization in the next election.

“Voters will have the opportunity to end marijuana prohibition next year and replace it with a policy that actually makes sense,” Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said in a statement. “Law enforcement officials will be able to spend their time addressing more serious crimes, and adults will no longer be punished simply for using marijuana.”

If voters approve the initiative, Nevada will become the fifth state—after Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska—to have a legal weed market. But chances are it won’t be the only state considering the option. Here are the four other states that marijuana law reformers are betting will have legalization votes on the ballot in 2016:

California: Groups like MPP and the Drug Policy Alliance are hard at work crafting the language for a ballot initiative in the Golden State. Issues like production limits and whether home-growing is allowed can divide voters and established medical marijuana businesses. For advocates, framing the initiative for success is particularly important given California’s influence as a regulatory laboratory.

“California was the first state to adopt a medical marijuana law and it inspired states around the country to adopt similar laws,” Tvert says. “It’s a state that carries a lot of weight nationwide. It’s a massive population center and it’s a very diverse state.” While California is packed with liberal politicians, the state also has conservative strongholds that have mobilized on ballot initiatives in the past. If an initiative passes there, advocates will trumpet it as evidence that legalization has wide bipartisan appeal.

Arizona: So far, legalization has taken root in Western liberal coastal states and libertarian mountain states. Conservative voters, which outnumber liberals in Arizona, are less likely to support recreational pot. But they are moving in that direction. A new poll from progressive firms SKDKnickerbocker and Benenson Strategy Group found that 61% of Americans support legalization nationwide, including 71% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans. In 2014, Gallup found that 51% of Americans support legalization, down from 58% the year before. “The federalism argument is starting to see traction,” says the Drug Policy Alliance’s Malik Burnett.

Young Republicans are driving the charge, with 6 in 10 of them siding with those who want to make weed legit. And young voters are more likely to turn out in a presidential election year like 2016. “That only bodes positive for the initiative,” Burnett says.

Maine: In 2012, Ron Paul won the majority of Republican delegates in Maine, a state next door to the one where Mitt Romney was governor. Which is to say: the libertarian vein runs deep. Voters in two Maine cities have also proved willing to legalize marijuana in largely symbolic votes in recent years. The state’s largest city, Portland, as well as South Portland, voted to make it legal for adults to possess a small amount of marijuana (though it remains illegal under state law and local law enforcement hasn’t changed their ways). The vote in Portland happened in 2013, making it the first city on the East Coast to pass such a measure.

The smaller city of Lewiston voted against a similar measure last year. But Tvert says that the most important result of the city-level campaigns is that people in the state are thinking about legalization and at least hearing the arguments from their side. “There’s been an ongoing public dialogue,” he says. “I’ve always believed that the more people learn about marijuana and the fact that it’s not as dangerous as they’ve been led to believe, the more likely they are to support treating it that way.”

Massachusetts: Voters in Massachusetts also have marijuana fresh in their minds. In 2012, residents voted to legalize medical marijuana, after decriminalizing the drug in 2008; both measures passed with over 60% of the vote. In 2014, more than a dozen districts in the state supported non-binding ballot measures indicating support for legalizing marijuana, and the state legislature has heard testimony on a legalization bill.

As a result, activists are concentrating their efforts in the Commonwealth. Organizations are preparing to spend money and mobilize signature-gatherers once they’ve settled on the ballot wording. It won’t be a cakewalk. Some state lawmakers have expressed skepticism that the people there are prepared to legalize recreational weed while their market for medical marijuana is still getting off the ground, despite the state’s liberal bent. “I’m not sure people in the state are ready for that and I’m certainly not sure I’m ready for that,” a Democratic lawmaker told the Boston Globe.

Legalization advocates, of course, are betting that they can convince a majority of people heading to the polls that the time is right. “In any state we’re up against 80 years of marijuana prohibition and efforts to demonize marijuana,” Tvert says. “Our goal remains the same and that’s to educate voters.”

Read next: Colorado Sold Nearly 5 Million Marijuana Edibles in 2014

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Drugs

Police Find More Than a Ton of Marijuana in Frozen Avocado Packages

Cook County Sheriff's Office Marijuana was found hidden inside bags of avocado pulp.

About $10 million of marijuana was found

Police in Illinois seized more than a ton of marijuana that was hidden in packages of frozen avocado pulp, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

About 2,100 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $10 million, was discovered on March 4 in bricks dispersed throughout more than 1,500 boxes of packaged avocado at a cold storage facility in Cook County.

According to the statement from the Sheriff’s Office, police were notified of a suspicious shipment and dispatched a narcotics K9, which detected the drugs inside the pallets.

TIME Ireland

Ecstasy Legal in Ireland for 48 Hours Due to Court Loophole

And magic mushrooms

The Irish legislature was scrambling Tuesday to pass an emergency measure after a loophole in a court decision legalized a host of drugs, including ecstasy and magic mushrooms.

The Irish Court of Appeal declared Tuesday morning that a section of the 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act, which regulated the now-legal drugs, unconstitutional, according to the Irish Times. A new bill criminalizing the drugs, if passed, will not take effect in the country until Thursday at 12 a.m.

“All substances controlled by means of Government Orders made under section 2(2) cease to be controlled with immediate effect, and their possession ceases to be an offence,” read a statement issued by Ireland’s Department of Health. “These include ecstasy, benzodiazepines and new psychoactive substances, so-called ‘headshop drugs.'”

It is, however, still illegal to sell the drugs. Other drugs that were outlawed with earlier legislation, like cocaine, heroin and marijuana, remain banned.

[The Irish Times]

Read next: This New Drug Turns ‘Bad’ White Fat Into ‘Good’ Brown Fat

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Senators Introduce Historic Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana

Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver on Dec. 27, 2013.
Brennan Linsley—AP Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver on Dec. 27, 2013.

A bipartisan group of three Senators will introduce a bill that could end the federal ban on medical marijuana

A bipartisan group of three Senators will introduce a historic bill Tuesday that could end the federal ban on medical marijuana, a substance that 23 states have now legalized.

The plan sponsored by Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand would “allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical-marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution,” according to a statement the three Senators released Monday. The measure would also reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I, putting it on the same legal footing as narcotics rather than substances like heroin.

Reform advocates like Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project say the legislation “has legs.” His group, as well as the Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access, helped shape the bill. Others are more skeptical. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has been following Congress’s movement on marijuana for the past 25 years. He says the bill may be “DOA” because some Republicans remain loath to touch such stuff.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the three Senators spoke alongside citizens with serious medical conditions who want to use medical marijuana but cannot access it or fear prosecution for violating federal law, even when they’re in a state that has legalized medical marijuana. Gillibrand dared her colleagues in the Senate to meet these people, like a young girl named Morgan who is debilitated by severe epilepsy, “and tell them they don’t deserve the medicine their doctors have prescribed.”

Even if Gillibrand’s colleagues don’t get on board, just the introduction of the bill remains significant. It’s a sign that some of the winds legalization advocates like St. Pierre have been fighting against for decades are now at their back. He calls the bill “historic,” noting that though the House has attempted marijuana reform for years, the Senate has largely been silent on the issue. Now they’re speaking out. Gillibrand insisted that making medical marijuana accessible is needed to “take care of America’s kids.”

At the conference Booker emphasized the need for veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder, to be able to access the drug; prescriptions are currently not allowed at veterans’ hospitals, even in states where the substance is legalized. “These laws must change,” he said. “The government has overstepped.” The last guest he introduced was a man who grows marijuana that supplies medical marijuana dispensaries in D.C., and he spoke at length about the trials and dangers of being forced to operate entirely in cash because of federal banking restrictions.

“Marijuana prohibition is not going to end without a public conversation,” St. Pierre says. “This bill will be [introduced] and then these discussions will be happening.”

While only a slim majority of Americans favor the legalization of recreational marijuana, medical marijuana is a more decided issue. In conservative states like Kentucky, the approval ratings are still at 52%, while they climb as high as 81% in purple states like Iowa. In February, the leader of the Republican majority in West Virginia’s state senate introduced a bill to allow residents to grow and use medical marijuana if it’s recommended by a doctor. The measure was co-sponsored by the senate’s Democratic minority leader.

Paul, as St. Pierre says, is a “dyed-in-the-wool libertarian.” At the conference, he spoke the need for research to be done on the drug—something that becomes more feasible if it’s classified as a Schedule II substance—and he said that the government is “restricting people’s choices,” adding that what America needs is “more freedom for states and individuals.” His federalist tack shows how it’s possible for this to be a social issue on which Republicans can evolve and use as a carrot for younger voters. The Marijuana Policy Project’s Riffle says that ending the federal ban would get the government out of doctor-patient relationships and save taxpayer money on medical dispensary raids. “Talking about reducing the role of government interference in our personal lives and enhancing personal freedom and autonomy, reducing government spending — those are all conservative talking points,” he says.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, where it is a ritual for Republican presidential hopefuls to court the base, Republican Senator Ted Cruz endorsed a federalist approach to Colorado’s marijuana legalization, saying it was a “great embodiment” of states acting as “laboratories of democracy.”

“If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative,” he said. “I don’t agree with it, but that’s their rights.” Aaron Houston, a political strategist with Weedmaps who has been trying to get the Senate to take up marijuana reform for years, calls Cruz’s position “remarkable” and the bill “hugely significant.”

The Senators pushing this measure have precedents beyond state-level actions to cite. The spending bill that President Obama signed in December contained an amendment that prohibited the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-level medical-marijuana programs. That new law gave many in the medical-marijuana world some peace of mind, as they continue to operate in a sphere where their actions are legal in their state and illegal in their country. Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken proponent of marijuana reform, heralded it as “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. The years in the interim, Riffle says, were like a “wait-and-see phase” where the sticky discrepancy between state and federal law was largely ignored. Regardless of whether the bill goes anywhere, he believes the introduction is a signal that the wait-and-see phase is over. “This is a legitimate, mainstream topic of debate,” Riffle says. “We’re ready to see Congress actually do something about it.”

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