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Super Bowl Attracts a Marijuana Message

BfGFYR9CAAEp-wBAbout 50 yards away, past the empty Gatorade bottles that lined the curb, past the old paint can and the rusted barbecue grill, and beyond the home’s tattered wooden walls, about 80,000 bees crawled over their hive.

The bees attacked and killed the pit bull, Boss, and sent his best friend, Mama, to an emergency veterinary hospital late Thursday morning, authorities said. The pair had apparently gotten loose and wandered the St. Petersburg neighborhood before making their way into the back yard of a junk-littered home at 675 23rd Ave. S. The bustling beehive, full of Africanized killer bees, was in the attic.

The dogs’ barking attracted the bees, which swarmed and attacked, stinging the dogs each more than 100 times. Boss was dead when police arrived. Mama was struggling to breathe. A neighbor took her to VCA Noah’s Place Animal Medical Center. It was unclear whether she would survive.

“Boss was in love with Mama,” said Fabian Guzman. “She has over 100 stings. They’re not sure if she’s going to make it.”

Guzman, 28, who owns two other pit bulls, had been caring for the dogs since he found them running loose two weeks ago, he said. He was walking out his front door about 11:30 a.m. Thursday carrying a bowl of food for the animals when he saw that they had broken out of his screened-in porch. Down the street, he saw the thrashing Boss, engulfed in a cloud of bees. He rushed over to try to help and got stung near his eye, he said.

Someone called police. They found the hive, nestled inside the attic on the east side of the home.

Thomas Davis, of Treeman Tree Services, was called to remove the hive, but advised that it would be unwise to do so during the day, when the bees are most aggressive, police said.

“It’s a very large hive,” said St. Petersburg police Lt. Dennis Bolender. “At this point, we’re not able to address the hive until after dark.”

Until then, officers waited in front of the home, warning people to avoid the area.

Neighbors complained that the home was unsafe, pointing to the piles of old discarded items in the front yard. “I’ve been here 18 years, and it has been that way for 18 years,” said Tukevia Smith. “I have small kids, and I have complained numerous times about the bees there.”

The couple who own the home, Don and Shirley Burns, said they were unaware of the beehive and would have removed it if they had known about it.

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Jeff Sessions: Marijuana Can’t Be Safer Than Alcohol Because ‘Lady Gaga Says She’s Addicted To It’

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) looks back proudly at his efforts, alongside Nancy Reagan, to “create a hostility to drug use” in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, Sessions was not pleased by President Obama’s recent comments about the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol, as he explained to Attorney General Eric Holder during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today:

I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that….Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?

Sessions, by contrast, clearly did his homework. He rebutted Obama’s observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol by citing a renowned expert on substance abuse:

Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Image: Senate Judiciary Committee)

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Image: Senate Judiciary Committee)

I have been covering drug policy for about 25 years, and I am still sometimes startled by what passes for an argument among prohibitionists. What should we conclude from this sample of one about the hazards posed by marijuana? That it can be taken to excess, like every other fun thing on the face of the planet? That some people say they have trouble consuming it in moderation? Didn’t we know both of those things before Dr. Gaga’s earthshaking discovery?

More to the point, what does the possibility of addiction tell us about the truth of the statement Obama made—i.e., that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol? After all, “less dangerous” does not mean “harmless.” As Holder observed, “any drug used in an inappropriate way can be harmful,” and “alcohol is among those drugs.” To evaluate relative hazards, we have to dig a little deeper.

According to one widely cited study, based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey, “dependence” is nearly 70 percent more common among drinkers than it is among pot smokers. So even by this measure, marijuana looks less dangerous. That’s without considering differences in acute toxicity, driving impairment, and the long-term effects of heavy consumption, all of which weigh strongly in marijuana’s favor.

Gaga was not the only authority cited by Sessions. He also mentioned former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the anti-pot group Project SAM, who according to the senator “says the president is wrong on this subject.” Yet here is what Kennedy said during a recent debate on CNN with my Reason colleague Nick Gillespie:

I agree with the president. Alcohol is more dangerous.

Sessions was on firmer ground when he pressed Holder to admit that “if marijuana is legalized for adults, it makes it more available for young people.” As I’ve said before, it is likely that legalization in Colorado and Washington will be accompanied by an increase in underage consumption. While the newly legal marijuana stores are not allowed to serve anyone younger than 21, there will be a certain amount of leakage from adults to “minors” (who in this case include a bunch of people who in most other respects are considered adults), as there is with alcohol. Buying marijuana may become more difficult for people younger than 21 (assuming the black market eventually withers away), but that does not mean obtaining marijuana will be more difficult. Some teenagers and young adults will get pot by swiping it from parents or older siblings, and some legal buyers will have no qualms about sharing with older teenagers or 20-year-olds (although that will remain illegal). Given this reality, Holder’s response to Sessions’ concern about underage access is a bit troubling:

One of our eight priorities is the prevention of distribution of marijuana to minors. If there’s an indication that marijuana is being distributed to minors, that would require federal involvement….

Young people find ways to get alcohol because adults can have access to it. I’m not sure that we’ll see the same thing here given what we have said with regard to our enforcement priorities.

Holder is referring to the eight issues the Justice Department expects Colorado and Washington to address as the price of federal forbearance, one of which is “preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors.” If that means stopping state-licensed stores from selling marijuana to people younger than 21, it can be accomplished through strict enforcement of the states’ age limits. But if it means preventing 21-year-olds from sharing marijuana with their 19-year-old friends or brothers, it is not a realistic expectation. It is more like an excuse to crack down whenever the president gets tired of sniping by diehard drug warriors like Sessions.

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