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Monday, October 19, 2009

Report on weed use prompts call for legalization

By Tiffany Crawford, Canwest News Service

The foundation is urging the Canadian government to legalize and regulate marijuana, by allowing people to grow their own and taxing sales the way it regulates alcohol or tobacco

The foundation is urging the Canadian government to legalize and regulate marijuana, by allowing people to grow their own and taxing sales the way it regulates alcohol or tobacco

Photograph by: Mark Blinch, Reuters

A report released Thursday that shows the number of pot smokers in the world has grown to more than 160 million people has Canadian advocates renewing calls for legalization of the drug.

An Australian study, citing United Nations data from 2006 and published Thursday in the journal Lancet, found that about 166 million people aged 15-64 — or an estimated one in 25 in that age range — reported using cannabis. That's up from about 159 million people in 2005.

"It's not going away. So should one in 25 people be criminalized for smoking pot?" asked Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa professor and spokesman for the Canadian Foundation For Drug Policy. "What this number says to me is the world is not drug free. Some people prefer alcohol over cannabis and some people prefer cannabis."

The foundation is urging the Canadian government to legalize and regulate marijuana, by allowing people to grow their own and taxing sales the way it regulates alcohol or tobacco.

While the Australian study found pot use was greatest in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, followed by Europe, another report — from the United Nations — shows marijuana use in this country is actually the highest in the industrialized world.

That 2007 report, by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, found 16.8 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 64 smoked marijuana or used other cannabis products in 2004. That's the most recent year for which statistics were cited.

"I'd say 70 or 80 per cent of my university students smoke pot and they are perfectly normal people," said Oscapella. "If you've ever tried it you know its no big deal. So why are we using criminal law to deal with this behaviour? That's the real issue."

Other figures — from Statistics Canada — show the number of Canadians using cannabis is on the rise, from 6.5 per cent of Canadians in 1989, to 7.4 per cent in 1994 and then to 12.2 per cent in 2002.

The largest concentration of marijuana use in Canada is in British Columbia, while residents of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan had lower-than-average rates.

B.C. also leads the country in marijuana production with 40 per cent of Canadian cannabis produced there. That's followed by Ontario at 25 per cent and another 25 per cent in Quebec, the UN report said.

Unlike Canada, in Australia and New Zealand — where eight per cent of the population use cannabis — the numbers there are declining, the Australian study says. It says a similar trend is also happening in western Europe.

The full report, which analyzes the adverse effects of cannabis use, can be viewed at

Why America Should Pay More Attention to Korean Cars

The Koreans have arrived! (This is is a good thing, and Hyundai deserves some respect.)

By Dan Neil

[more from this author]


A3 Design

The hippest dead Moravian economist of the moment is a guy named Joseph Schumpeter, who popularized the phrase "creative destruction." In part, the phrase refers to the process whereby hugely successful corporations get soft, bloated, and uncompetitive and then get their butts kicked by young, lean, and agile companies. Capitalism. It's a beautiful thing.

Like Toyota in the 1960s, Seoul-based Hyundai's start in the U. S. market in the late 1980s was spectacularly inauspicious, led by the trembling econobox Excel, which mechanics knew as a veritable crap grenade. But year after year, model redesign after redesign, on an escalating trajectory, Hyundais and Kias (which Hyundai owns) got better, precisely according to Schumpeter's formula. In the 1990s, the company doubled down on quality by offering a then-unprecedented ten-year/100,000-mile warranty. In 2005, Hyundai launched the fourth-generation Sonata, a beautifully fettled, impossible-to-ignore rival to the Toyota Camry at about a 15 percent discount. Four years later, the Hyundai Genesis sedan was crowned the 2009 North American Car of the Year.

Still, Americans have not yet accepted Korea as an automaking powerhouse — a recent survey found only 16 percent of Americans would consider a Korean-made vehicle — even though Hyundai sold 400,000 cars in America last year and is now the fifth-largest carmaker in the world, the fastest growing, and one of the most profitable.

Quietly and behind the scenes, this lack of recognition royally pisses off Korean auto executives. Actually, when you review the company's hyperaggressive product plans for the next few years, it's hard not to see the infected edge of a grudge at work. Hyundai wants respect. And not just in one segment of the industry — in every segment.

Hyundai Equus

For a company that was once known for its shimmying tragic shitboxes, Hyundai's upcoming 2011 Equus (pictured above) — a syrup-smooth, Demerol-quiet rear-drive luxury sedan on par with the Lexus LS 460 — is an audacious statement. It's not simply a case of proving Hyundai has the technology chops — in the global marketplace, high-tech is easy to come by — but that the brand has the vertical elasticity to accommodate a car costing between $60,000 and $80,000. Can you imagine parking a Hyundai Equus next to a Lexus at the club? Hyundai is betting you can.

kia soul

Kia Soul

With luck as much as prescience, Toyota's Scion division (founded in 2002) rolled into a larger cultural narrative of cool things from Japan, including manga, Hello Kitty, and schoolgirls' striped kneesocks. If there is ever a K-chic equivalent, it'll start with the Soul.

The Soul rocks a box shape, an awesome sound system, good gas mileage, and a selection of Life Savers colors. It also offers stereo speakers that throb with red LED lights, if that should appeal to you (so gr8). With a maxed-out price just north of $19,000, the Soul is aimed at hip, frenetic downloaders who are still living with their parents or in the dorm. Mom and Dad will like the fact that the Soul is supersafe, well kitted, and actually not bad to drive — as lively a car as ever resembled personal-hygiene packaging.

hyundai genesis coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Right now a kid wearing a Hyundai hat would be as shunned as if his hat read Avis; Hyundai has to go after racer boys. And so it has with the Genesis coupe, a 306 hp, 3.8-liter, V-6-powered rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. A gift to the sport-compact crowd, the Genesis coupe "Track" package comes out of the box fast and furious, with 19-inch alloy wheels, gummy performance tires, Brembo brakes, and a limited-slip differential, a bit of gearing in the rear that makes power-sliding around corners easy and epic fun.

It's also a screaming value: A fully loaded V-6 Genesis coupe — leather, navi, Xenon headlights — comes in at less than $30,000. Point being, one day that Hyundai hat won't look so lame.

Read more:

New super-hotel to cheapen the Hajj?

The Makkah Clock Tower Royal Hotel

The Makkah Clock Tower Royal Hotel

An under-construction super-luxurious hotel in Mecca has raised fears that the hajj which is meant to involve hardship, struggle and sacrifice will be cheapened and instead become the preserve of the super-rich

The pilgrimage to Mecca traditionally see Muslims travelling to the holy site, forgoing worldly possessions, thoughts and activities in order to focus on their faith. However the Makkah Clock Tower Royal Hotel, part of the seven tower Abraj Al-Bait Complex, will give those who can afford it creature comforts whilst they perform the fifth pillar of Islam.

Boasting the world's largest clock (4.7 times larger than Big Ben) on each side, the 1,591 ft tall hotel will be among the world's second tallest tower. Estimated to cost USD$3 billion, the hotel will feature 24-hour butler service, segregated gyms, beauty parlours, grooming salons, a spa and a chocolate room where chefs will prepare bespoke pralines and truffles.

The hotel will be managed by Fairmont Hotels who are keen to make the hotel the most luxurious hotel in the Hoyl City. Speaking to Arabian Business, Mohammed Arkobi, the hotel's manager, said the hotel will be at the centre of the seven tower complex located opposite the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, occupying a space equal to 15.6 million square feet.

Abraj Al Bait

The hotel will have 76 elevators and 1,005 guest rooms and suites. It will have five "Royal" floors and two "Golden floors", the latter referring to Fairmont Gold, the company's exclusive "hotel within a hotel".

"The golden hotels have their own reception, check-in and lounge," said Arkobi. "The royal floors are just that - royal. They are like palaces, with some suites 1,200 square metres and one suite which is 3,600 square metres."

When asked by The Guardian how this level of luxury would help pilgrims achieve spiritual fulfilment, Arkobi was unable to answer. Nor was he sure how the hotel complemented the hajj. However he did say the hotel would meet the needs of the most 'discerning' pilgrim.

"Ultimately, the hotel's sophisticated ambiance, our range of features and highly personalised service delivery such as those offered through our 24-hour butler service will help to ensure that our residents' overall experience will be enriching."

Hajj is a pilgrimage that every able bodied Muslim is obliged to make at least once in their lifetime. After a Muslim makes the trip to Mecca, he or she is known as a hajj or hajja (one who made the pilgrimage to Mecca). Around 4 million people visit Mecca for hajj, with millions more passing through the rest of the year. Numbers have been increasing year on year with estimates for future numbers ranging from 10 million to 20 million.

Six-Year-Old Sells Her Toys to Aid Local Police Dogs

A six-year-old Virginia girl loves dogs so much she raised money to buy five bullet-proof vests for the Newport News K-9 division, reported.

Kayleigh Crimmins got the cash by selling her toys on Craigslist. She received a standing ovation from the city council at their Tuesday meeting.

Her mother told this is just the beginning for Kayleigh.

"I think she's determined. I think she loves dogs," Lee crimmins said. "And there's no end to this. She's made that very clear."

The young girl also sells toys donated by friends, t-shirts and stickers.

Crimmins has made similar donations to K-9 forces in Maryland and North Carolina.

Some of her donations have gone towards other safety equipment for police dogs, including a heat alarm for patrol cars that alerts officers to rising temperatures that could be hazardous for their canine partners.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gets Jeopardy Question About Himself Wrong

This is embarrassing, even for someone who was in Airplane!

Welcome to Potopia - Oaksterdam

A nine-block section of downtown Oakland, Calif., has become a modern marijuana mecca—and a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like. Why the stars are aligning for the pro-weed movement.

Pot Propaganda

A look at decades of pro- and anti-marijuana media

Marijuana Mecca

How Oakland, Calif., became a model for the pro-pot movement (adjust volume for sound)

On the corner of Broadway and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, nudged between a Chinese restaurant and a hat shop, Oaksterdam University greets passersby with a life-size cutout of Barack Obama and the sweet smell of fresh marijuana drifting from a back room. Inside, dutiful students flip through thick plastic binders of the day's lessons, which, on a recent Saturday began with "Pot Politics 101," taught by a ponytailed legal consultant who has authored a number of books on hemp. The class breaks for lunch around noon and resumes an hour later, with classes on "budtending," horticulture, and cooking, which includes a recipe for "a beautiful pot pesto." There are 50 students in this class, the majority of them Californians, but some have come all the way from Kansas. In between lectures, the university's founder, Richard Lee, 47, rolls in and out on his wheelchair greeting students, looking the part of a pot-school dean in Converse sneakers, aviator glasses, and a green "Oaksterdam" T shirt.

Locals refer to the nine-block area surrounding the university as Oaksterdam—a hybrid of "Oakland" and the drug-friendly "Amsterdam," where marijuana has been effectively legal since 1976. Nestled among what was once a rash of vacant storefronts, Lee has created a kind of urban pot utopia, where everything moves just a little bit more slowly than the outside world. Among the businesses he owns are the Blue Sky Coffeeshop, a coffeehouse and pot dispensary where getting an actual cup of Joe takes 20 minutes but picking up a sack of Purple Kush wrapped neatly in a brown lunch bag takes about five. There's Lee's Bulldog Café, a student lounge with a not-so-secret back room where the haze-induced sounds of "Dark Side of the Moon" seep through thick smoke and a glass-blowing shop where bongs are the art of choice. Around the corner is a taco stand (Lee doesn't own this one) that has benefitted mightily from the university's hungry students.

An education at Oaksterdam means learning how to grow, sell, market, and consume weed—all of which has been legal in California, for medicinal use only, since 1996. For the price of a half ounce of pot and a couple of batches of brownies (about $250), pot lovers can enroll in a variety of weekend cannabis seminars all focused on medicinal use. But "medicinal" is something of an open joke in the state, where anyone over age 18 with a doctor's note—easy to get for ailments like anxiety or cramps, if you're willing to pay—can obtain an ID card allowing access to any of the state's hundreds of dispensaries, or pot shops. ("You can basically get a doctor's recommendation for anything," said one dispensary worker.) Not all of those dispensaries are legally recognized, however: there's a growing discrepancy over how California's laws mesh (or don't mesh) with local and federal regulations. But Oakland is unique in that it has four licensed and regulated dispensaries, each taxed directly by the city government. This past summer, Oakland voters became the first in the nation to enact a special cannabis excise tax—$18 for every $1,000 grossed—that the city believes will generate up to $1 million in the first year. Approved by 80 percent of voters, and unopposed by any organization, including law enforcement, the tax was pushed by the dispensary owners themselves, who hope the model will prove to the rest of California that a regulated marijuana industry can be both profitable and responsible. "The reality is we're creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come down here to Oakland they can see that," says Lee, who smokes both recreationally and for his health, to ease muscle spasms caused by a spinal cord injury.

The arguments against this kind of operation are easy to tick off: that it glamorizes marijuana, promotes a gateway drug, leads to abuse. Compared with more-serious drugs like heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol, studies have shown the health effects of marijuana are fairly mild. But there are still risks to its consumption: heavy pot users are more likely to be in car accidents; there have been some reports of it causing problems in respiration and fetal development. And, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, put it recently, there are a number of medical professionals, and many parents, who worry that the drug's increased potency over the years has heightened the risk of addiction. "It's certainly true that this is not your grandfather's pot," says Mark Kleiman, a drug-policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, like much of the country, Oakland is suffering economically. The city faced an $83 million budget deficit this year, and California, of course, is billions in the red. So from a public-coffers perspective, if ever there were a time to rethink pot policy, that time is now. Already in Sacramento, there is a legalization measure before the state assembly that the author claims could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenue. And while analysts say it has little hope of passing (it faces strong opposition from law enforcement), the figures prompted even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—who's vetoed every marijuana-related bill to come across his desk—to proclaim, "It's time for a debate." On a federal level, marijuana is still illegal—it was outlawed, over the objections of the American Medical Association, in 1937. But in February, Attorney General Eric Holder stunned critics when he announced that the feds would cease raiding medical-marijuana dispensaries that are authorized under state law. "People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization," wrote former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in a recent op-ed. "And truth be told, there is just too much money to be made both by the people who grow marijuana and the cities and counties that would be able to tax it."

The new Tramp Stamp...comes with a Born on Date

Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor Ties the Knot

Brandi Fowler, eonline

Trent Reznor wrote a song called "Ringfinger" on his first album, and now he's finally ready to put something on that digit.

The 44-year-old Nine Inch Nails star married Mariqueen Maandig in a ceremony Saturday, E! News has learned.

Former West Indian Girl singer Maandig announced news of their engagement on the band's website in May.

The groom's bandmate, Danny Lohner, broke news of the newlyweds' nuptials via twitter, tweeting "Goths the world over will mourn this day – off to a wedding" and posted a pic of the newlyweds dancing together with the caption "Congrats!"

Celebrity photographer Robert Evans, who shot Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ' wedding, as well as that of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, photographed the ceremony.

Feds to issue new medical marijuana policy


WASHINGTON — Pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers should not be targeted for federal prosecution in states that allow medical marijuana, prosecutors were told Monday in a new policy memo issued by the Justice Department.

Under the policy spelled out in a three-page legal memo, federal prosecutors are being told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

The guidelines being issued by the department do, however, make it clear that federal agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.

The memo advises prosecutors they "should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

California stands out among those for the widespread presence of dispensaries — businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. Colorado also has several dispensaries, and Rhode Island and New Mexico are in the process of licensing providers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that promotes the decriminalization of marijuana use.

Holder said in March that he wanted federal law enforcement officials to pursue those who violate both federal and state law, but it has not been clear how that goal would be put into practice.

The memo spelling out the policy was sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states, and also to top officials at the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.

The memo written by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.

"This is a major step forward," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This change in policy moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality."

At the same time, officials said, the government will still prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal activity.

In particular, the memo urges prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes.

And while the policy memo describes a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases, it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.

The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial priorities to U.S. attorneys in the states that allow medical marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources.

Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see exactly how the administration would implement candidate Barack Obama's repeated promises to change the policy in situations in which state laws allow the use of medical marijuana.

Soon after Obama took office, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles, prompting confusion about the government's plans.


On the Net:

Justice Department memo on medical marijuana:

Drug Enforcement Administration:

Marijuana Policy Project:

Fresh Prince of Hot Air