Pubdate: Thu, 29 Apr 2010
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2010 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Cannabis Will Be Legal This Year, According to a New Independent Poll,
If Young People Show Up in November.

A strong majority of Californians appear ready to legalize cannabis
for personal use, a new independent poll found last week. A handful of
TV stations hired the reputable Survey USA to ask 500 random
Californians this question:

"Should the state of California legalize the use of marijuana? Or
not?" Fifty-six percent said "yes," 42 percent said "no," with 3
percent undecided.

But don't get too worked up. The margin of error on the poll was
around 4 percent, and the poll did not account for mid-term voters,
who tend to be older and more conservative. The last independent
survey -- a 2009 Field Poll -- had the same problem.

Still, there are some interesting findings in the numbers. A
supermajority of those under 34 favor legalization, which means time
is on reform's side. Californians age 35-49 are slightly against
legalization (50-46 percent) yet legalization is a dead heat (49-49
percent) in the 50-64 bracket. Those 65 and older are still staunchly
in the "no" camp (54-39 percent). And since these are the folks who
like to vote early and often in mid-terms, reformers must turn out
enough youth to rock grandma's vote. Well, are you, kids?

Racially: whites, blacks, and Asians are for legalization, but 53
percent of Hispanics are against it. Politically: independents are
solidly for legalization, as well as Democrats. Republicans appear to
be against it. They would vote "no," 46 to 53 percent, although
that's within the margin of error.

In other poll news, ABC News did a national poll that claims to have
found 55 percent of Americans oppose legalization. But This Is Your
Country on Drugs author Ryan Grim, a Huffington Post reporter covering
health in Washington, DC, dug into the numbers and noted that "when
pot is compared to alcohol, support for reforming the laws surges.
Forty-four percent of respondents said that 'the regulations on
marijuana [should] be the same as those for alcohol.' Another 12
percent said they should be 'less strict,' meaning that a full 56
percent support the policy change -- perhaps the highest [national]
number ever recorded in favor of legalization. (Alcohol is, after all,

Quitting Hard Drugs with Cannabis

East Bay residents are enrolling in twelve-step-like classes that use
cannabis to quit heroin, pills, cigarettes, alcohol, and other
addictive substances, defying decades of Narcotics Anonymous and
Alcoholics Anonymous tradition.

Even though NA and AA both mandate abstinence from all illegal drugs,
that one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work, said Harm Reduction
Clinical Consultant Jennifer Janichek. For the last six weeks,
Janichek, along with two other clinicians, have been running
pro-cannabis mental health and addiction services for a handful of
people out of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland. The free
services paid for by the area's largest cannabis dispensary explain
the safest way to smoke pot -- which is not physically addictive --
and use it to combat depression, anxiety, and addiction.

For years, there've been anecdotal reports about people using cannabis
to quit harder drugs. The process is called "substitution," and it's a
tactic that's beginning to be endorsed by the "harm reduction"
philosophy of mental health. Janichek said harm reduction is most
popularly associated with needle exchanges, condom disbursement,
ecstasy pill testing, and seat-belt laws. Harm reduction accepts that
some people will engage in risky behavior, and clinicians should seek
to reduce the harms associated with such risks. That might include
endorsing a little pot over a lot of OxyContin. "A lot of these folks
go to NA or AA and can't talk about their medical cannabis use because
it's frowned upon," Janichek explained. "NA and AA wouldn't view users
as being sober. I've talked to folks who've had a really good
experience in NA except they couldn't share that piece of their life."

Harborside crafted a program that's similar to traditional
twelve-step programs, but ignores the pot smoking. This concept of
substitution is cutting edge, with new research just coming out.
According to a poll of medical cannabis users by UC Berkeley's Dr.
Amanda Reinman, published in the Harm Reduction Journal in December:
"Forty percent [of those polled] have used cannabis as a substitute
for alcohol, 26 percent as a substitute for illicit drugs and 66
percent as a substitute for prescription drugs. The most common
reasons given for substituting were: less adverse side effects (65
percent), better symptom management (57 percent), and less withdrawal
potential (34 percent) with cannabis."

With that reality in mind, Janichek designed a Substance Use & Misuse
Clinical Services Program at Harborside Health Center that is
currently at capacity. The program includes information sharing
sessions, depression forums, social skills groups, online support
groups, and one-on-one counseling. She says most of the clients who
sign up report depression, anxiety, and mostly a lot of questions. "A
lot of folks are DARE generation at this point and they haven't been
given honest information on the basics of different drugs and what
they do to your body," Janichek said.

Kids want to know if it's okay to break up Adderall and snort it, or
which is healthier -- smoking out of a bong or hitting a joint, she
said. She consults the literature and tells them. And she would never
order someone with a problem to simply quit smoking pot. Harm
reduction inverts the AA model where users must admit their
powerlessness. Addicts aren't powerless, they're smart enough to make
their own choices, she said.

Janichek is tracking the outcomes of Harborside's free,
cannabis-positive mental health services, with the goal of
extrapolating the data into guidelines and replicating the services in
other dispensaries. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake