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    UNGASS: First Step to International Legalization of Marijuana


    UNGASS 2016 May Signal an International Shift Regarding Drug Control and Legalization

    In 1971, Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon introduced the war on drugs to the world by declaring drugs and drug users/abusers “public enemy number one.” The initial plan to combat this “enemy” was for eradication, interruption of shipments and sales, and incarceration. Today, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the war on drugs, estimates that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives.

    For years, governments have called for a new approach to the ineffective international war on drugs. Pressed by Latin American Member State leaders, the United Nations General Assembly, the policy-making portion of the United Nations, is finally listening to this outcry for change.

    The United Nations General Assembly plans to hold a review of drug control policies during a Special Session taking place April 19–21, 2016, in New York City. This session is called UNGASS 2016.

    What is UNGASS?

    In a nutshell, UNGASS may be the first step towards international legalization, but just in case you want the full picture of what UNGASS is, here is the detailed answer.

    The United Nations General Assembly Special Session, or UNGASS, is a meeting of UN Member States to assess and debate global issues. This Special Session will be an important benchmark in assessing policy goals set in the 2009 document, "Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem," which defined actions to be taken and goals to be achieved by Member States comprising the UN by 2019.

    At the request of Latin American Members states, including Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala, a Special Session was requested to assess “the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem.”

    Why does this Special Session matter?

    UNGASS 2016 will an opportunity to reevaluate the so-called war on drugs and the antiquated drug policies adopted by many countries, including the United States. It may also be the first step towards international legalization.

    As evidence mounts that the global drug war has been a costly failure, the idea of a unified global effort for reform has never been stronger. Demand for a major overhaul of global drug policy has been gaining momentum, both in the U.S. and abroad.

    In December 2015, Colombia made a bold move to legalize medical marijuana. Colombia will be one of many countries that have joined a growing reform delegation that will be front and center at UNGASS 2016. By legalizing medical marijuana, Colombia is one of many Latin American nations from Mexico to Uruguay to Chile who have moved either towards decriminalizing marijuana or allowing for its medicinal use, or both.

    But why should I care?

    There are many reasons to care, but one of the main reasons you should care is the money that you and I are paying for this so-called war. In 2010, the U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars on the war on drugs at a rate of about $500 per second. (Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy).

    More than 1.5 million drug arrests are made every year in the U.S. and the overwhelming majority of these arrests are for possession only.

    Decriminalizing drug possession can provide several major benefits for public safety and health, such as:

    • Significantly reducing the number of people arrested and incarcerated;
    • Increasing intake into drug treatment;
    • Reducing criminal justice costs and redirecting resources from criminal justice to health systems;
    • Redirecting law enforcement resources to prevent serious and violent crime;
    • Addressing racial disparities in drug law enforcement and sentencing, incarceration and related health outcomes;
    • Minimizing stigma and creating a climate in which people who use drugs are less fearful of seeking and accessing treatment, utilizing harm reduction services and receiving HIV/AIDS services; and
    • Protecting people from the wide-ranging and debilitating consequences of a criminal conviction

    Ways to get involved and to gain further education

    Stay informed and get vocal! It is clear that the original plan for the so-called war on drugs has not worked. It is time to develop more realistic and more progressive ideas. Call and/or email your state representatives to lobby for more progressive drug policies.

    To stay current with all the events and happenings around UNGASS, websites have been created by organizations, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Drug Policy Consortium. These websites, and many others, will be updated to keep the global community informed about the timeline of important dates leading up to the April UNGASS and the various topics to be discussed.

    That status quo and the same old, same old mentality of doing things when it comes to drug policies have been proven ineffective. UNGASS may be the start of an international conversation that could lead to revamped drug policies. Stay tuned!

    Hurrah! NY legalizes medical marijuana

    As expected, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the medical marijuana bill that passed the State Senate by an overwhelming vote this week.
    NY is now the 23rd state to allow access to medical cannabis, albeit only via vaporizing, oils and edibles.  
    Celebrate with our first-class BlackoutX vape pen that is refillable with oils or wax and comes with free shipping.

    How E-Cigs are Forcing Big Name Brands to Rethink Their Smoking Policies

    Are you allowed to smoke your e-cig on the job? Here's a look at how e-cigs are changing the "smokers" image at the work place.


    E-Cigs Wafting Into Workplace 25 Years After Smoking Ban

    When John Castellano feels like a smoke, he simply heads to the break room at Kraft Foods Group Inc. (KRFT) ’s Garland, Texas, factory.

    The 39-year-old technician has been able to indulge his habit in common areas at work since he started using electronic cigarettes, which emit vapor rather than smoke.

    E-cigs are “very liberating,” said Castellano, who used to join the other nicotine addicts at the factory’s designated smoking area.

    Twenty-five years after companies began banning smoking in the workplace, the increasing popularity of e-cigs is forcing them to review their policies. Many corporations still ban “vaping” as they wait to see if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will regulate e-cigs as strictly as regular smokes. Yet Kraft and Walgreen Co. (WAG) allow local managers to set the rules. Smaller firms, especially creative agencies and Web startups, have already adopted a more laissez-faire attitude.

    U.S. e-cig sales will triple this year to $1.5 billion and double annually through 2018, according to Euromonitor International projections. After that, sales of e-cigs may increase 10 percent a year and reach $124.5 billion in 2028, surpassing conventional smokes for the first time, Kenneth Shea, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries in Skillman, New Jersey, said in an interview today.

    They’re expected to accelerate as traditional tobacco makers muscle into a market previously dominated by small players. Both Altria Group Inc. (MO) and Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), the biggest U.S. tobacco sellers, are expanding distribution of e-cigs. Lorillard Inc. (LO) controls about half of the U.S market with blu eCigs, which it acquired last year.

    ‘Nobody Complained’

    So far, small companies where bosses can monitor whether e-cigs bother co-workers are more likely to allow vaping.

    “It is all new to us,” said Ged King, president of the Sales Factory, a 35-employee marketing firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina. He looked up in surprise during a staff meeting a few months ago to see an employee vaping. Now several employees do it, presumably “to help them kick the smoking habit,” he said.

    “We’ve not put a policy in place because nobody has complained,” King said.

    The technology gives users seeking anonymity an edge. E-cigs heat liquid nicotine into an inhaled vapor, dissipating faster than cigarette smoke. So workers more worried about being seen than smelled puff e-cigs in empty offices and bathrooms, according to posts on the E-Cigarette Forum website, where visitors share favorite flavors and vaping lounges, as well as tips on how to avoid offending co-workers.


    “I’m doing it on the down-low and just close the door,” said Dennis Rumpf, a construction manager in Charlotte, North Carolina. He declined to identify his employer because it didn’t authorize him to speak publicly.

    Rumpf, 37, said he alternates between menthol and classic tobacco flavors in the e-cigs he’s been using for six months, after 19 years as a smoker.

    “I have people come into my office all the time and I’m sure they’d say something if they noticed anything,” he said.

    Web developer Adam Gray has won his boss’s approval to use e-cigs at his Minnetonka, Minnesota, office.

    “It makes him more productive and sets him on a path for better health,” said Paul Hanson, chief operating officer of TrackIF LLC, a firm that monitors price changes across the Web.

    Gray, 27, said he can “vape all day, a puff here and there” without leaving his desk.

    Kraft doesn’t have a companywide e-cigs policy and allows managers to make their own rules as long as they abide by local and state laws. Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore retailer, also leaves decisions to office managers.

    Regulatory Uncertainties

    However, health and regulatory uncertainties have prompted many employers to treat e-cigs like regular cigarettes, said Paula Andersen, a registered nurse at Buck Consultants, a human-resources firm that advises companies on health programs.

    “We recommend that if companies do have a tobacco-free policy that they call electronic cigarettes out as well,” said Andersen, who declined to identify clients.

    Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and General Motors Co. (GM) allow vaping in designated smoking areas, while CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) and Lowe’s Cos. currently ban e-cigs and regular smokes. Levi Strauss & Co. forces vapers to do their business outside.

    “For the most part, people who vape are treated as smokers,” said LeeAnn Blohm, who favors chocolate peanut butter and butterscotch e-cigs. She declined to identify her employer in Austin, Texas, which doesn’t allow vaping inside.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Burritt in Greensboro at cburritt@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net


    ref: Bloomberg Businessweek