Massachusetts — With medical marijuana dispensaries set to open later this year in Massachusetts, a review of the latest research suggests that it can help alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms such as pain, overactive bladder, and muscle stiffness.
But the review, conducted by specialists convened by the American Academy of Neurology, found that marijuana does not help relieve the uncontrollable limb spasms that result from a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. And it concluded that there is insufficient evidence to know whether the drug reduces symptoms caused by neurological diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, or epilepsy.
“We wanted to inform patients and physicians, but we didn’t make specific treatment recommendations,” said study coauthor Dr. Gary Gronseth, a professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.
He and his colleagues recommended that doctors consider potentially serious side effects before certifying patients to grow or buy the drug. Mood changes, depression, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts occurred in about 1 percent of patients who used marijuana for medical purposes, according to the review of 34 studies published Monday in the journal Neurology, Other side effects included nausea, increased weakness, dizziness, fatigue, and feelings of intoxication.
“While certain forms of medical marijuana can be helpful to treat some symptoms of MS, our review highlights the need for more high quality research studies on the safety and efficacy of marijuana,” said Dr. Barbara Koppel, the study leader and a neurologist at New York Medical College in New York.
Despite those concerns, the conclusions of the neurology group’s review could make neurologists more likely to recommend marijuana — taken as a pill, squirted into the mouth in spray form, or smoked — to MS patients who fail to benefit from standard treatments.
“I think it is a positive finding, and it makes me feel more comfortable telling patients to use medical marijuana,” said Dr. Howard Weiner, director of the Partners MS Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Since January, he and his colleagues have certified more than 100 of their multiple sclerosis patients to use marijuana for medical purposes.
Until dispensaries open, certified patients can grow their own marijuana or obtain it from a “personal caregiver” such as a hospice provider or visiting nurse.
Most of the studies included in the review assessed medical marijuana in pill or spray form, rather than smoked; it is harder for researchers to determine the level of active compounds patients get with each inhale, so they prefer to use more standardized forms of delivery.
Koppel said in a press briefing that the latest evidence suggests that certain chemicals in the plant called cannabinoids provide more relief from multiple sclerosis symptoms with fewer side effects than tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that produces the feeling of being high. More research, however, is needed to determine which formulation works best.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society said in a statement that it “supports the rights of people with MS to work with their health care providers to access marijuana for medical purposes” but added that “current research is unable to fully determine whether smoked marijuana is safe or helpful for treating MS symptoms.”
While the study authors found that THC pills were not effective combating involuntary muscle movements caused by the Parkinson’s drug levodopa, they could not conclude one way or the other whether medical marijuana in any form could help alleviate a wide variety of symptoms caused by other neurological diseases such as epileptic seizures, Tourette’s syndrome tics, abnormal neck movements, or paralysis caused by Huntington’s disease.
“Saying there’s insufficient evidence is not the same thing as saying that [medical marijuana] is not effective for these conditions,” Gronseth said.
In January, the state Department of Public Health approved 20 applicants for preliminary licenses to operate dispensaries, but last month those applicants were told they would have to undergo extensive additional background checks. It is unclear whether the new round of scrutiny will delay the opening of the dispensaries.
Matthew Allen, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said there is an “urgent need” for the dispensaries to be open as soon as possible.
Any lack of effectiveness seen in the review, he added, is the result of federal policies that have made it extremely difficult for researchers to obtain the controlled substance.
“These policies must be changed to allow more study of medical marijuana,” he said in an interview.
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff
Published: April 28, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Globe Newspaper Company
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Posted by CN Staff on April 28, 2014 at 13:26:26 PT
By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press
Denver — Coloradans think marijuana legalization has been good for the state, though just 15 percent have used pot since recreational sales began in January, according to a poll released Monday.
Fifty-two percent said marijuana legalization has been beneficial, 38 percent said it has been bad for the state, and 10 percent were unsure, according to the Quinnipiac University poll. Asked whether legalization has “eroded the moral fiber” of people in Colorado, 30 percent agreed, and 67 percent disagreed.
Marijuana activists praised Monday’s poll results, especially the 53-41 margin agreeing that legal pot “will save the state and taxpayers a significant amount of money.”
“Not only has the sky not fallen, the forecast is as bright as ever” for economic growth from legal pot, said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Pollsters conducted the telephone survey April 15-21 with 1,298 registered voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 points.
Coloradans did not seem to think legal pot has made driving more dangerous. Asked whether legalization has made driving less safe, 54 percent said no and 39 percent said yes.
Residents were more divided on legal pot’s effect on the criminal justice system. Fifty percent said legalization will have a positive impact on it, 40 percent said it will have a negative impact, the rest were unsure. Just 21 percent said they thought marijuana legalization would reduce racially biased arrests.
Coloradans might be OK with marijuana, but they’re not clamoring to see politicians using it frequently.
Asked whether they’d be more or less likely to vote for a candidate for elected office who smokes marijuana two or three days a week, just 3 percent said more likely. Fifty-two percent said they’d be less likely to vote for the candidate, with the rest saying it would make no difference or they were unsure.
Gina Carbone of Smart Colorado, a critic of the current marijuana industry, said she’s been hearing an outpouring of concern about Colorado’s marijuana landscape, especially after the April 20 celebrations that put mass public toking on the national news.
“There’s been tremendous backlash” at the sight of public smoking, Carbone said. And recent news of deaths that may be connected to marijuana consumption has heightened worries.
“We are hearing nothing but people complaining and emailing out of concern for what is going on,” she said.
The poll also asked about same-sex marriage and found Coloradans support it nearly 2-to-1. Sixty-one percent supported same-sex marriage in Colorado, while 33 percent opposed it, and 7 percent were unsure.
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press
Published: April 28, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Posted by CN Staff on April 27, 2014 at 09:04:31 PT
By Michael Mayo, Sun Sentinel Columnist
Florida — Before Florida voters decide the fate of medical marijuana in November, the Legislature might soon legalize a certain strain of medical pot – for kids. That would be pretty ironic, given all the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaigns aimed at school children through the years.
But it also would be pretty humane, considering the non-euphoric strain known as “Charlotte’s Web” has reportedly been effective in curtailing severe seizures in some children with intractable epilepsy. This type of marijuana is not smoked, but administered as an oil extract added to food. It is very low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of pot that gets users high.
After years of Just Saying No, legislators who’ve held committee hearings on two bills (HB843/SB1030) that would allow Charlotte’s Web have been Just Voting Yes.
“If you tally up all the committee votes, it’s been something like 90 percent in favor,” said Seth Hyman, of Weston, a medical marijuana supporter whose 8-year-old daughter Rebecca suffers from severe seizures.
Actually, 93 percent: 78 yeas and 6 nays in six Senate and House committee stops this year.
But even if the bills are approved by both chambers before the scheduled end of session next week, Gov. Scott might sink the effort with a veto.
Scott signalled as much last week. John Armstrong, the Florida surgeon general and a Scott appointee who heads the Department of Health, voiced his opposition to the bill.
“We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm,” Armstrong told the House Judiciary committee, which voted 15-3 to support the bill anyway.
“Do no harm” is the supposed golden rule of medicine.
“Do no harm?! My child is being harmed every day,” Hyman told me on Friday. “My daughter is regressing every day…This bill could save her life.”
There are an estimated 125,000 cases of intractable epilepsy in Florida, marked by dozens of daily seizures that can progressively get worse for children, leading to brain damage and death.
“This is another example of our wonderful Tallahassee politicians coming between patients and doctors, and getting in the way of desperate parents and kids who need help,” Hyman said. “What boggles my mind is how so many of these bright people can say yes, and then just one or two people – the surgeon general and the governor – can stop it by saying no.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use. Armstrong testified he was leery of allowing untested drugs into the market. He said Florida should wait for more research by the federal government.
But that’s pretty disingenuous, considering the federal government has long classified marijuana as a “Schedule One” drug with no medically accepted use and has thwarted nearly all research studies in recent decades.
Last month, the feds granted permission to Arizona researchers for a study into pot’s potential benefits for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An experimental federal program once open to cancer, glaucoma and AIDS patients stopped accepting new enrollees decades ago.
Only four patients remain in that program, including Irvin Rosenfeld, 60, a Fort Lauderdale stockbroker with a rare bone tumor condition who has smoked over 130,000 joints provided by the feds over the last 34 years. Rosenfeld says medical marijuana works and has allowed him to lead a productive life.
The only consolation if this latest legislative effort fails: Florida voters will get final say on broader use of medical marijuana come November. Amendment 2 needs 60 percent approval to pass. If voters put medical pot into the state constitution, the Legislature would have nine months to enact laws regulating it.
“Amendment 2 needs to pass,” Hyman said. “Not just for my daughter, but for millions of other Floridians of all ages who are suffering.”
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel (FL)
Author: Michael Mayo, Sun Sentinel Columnist
Published: April 26, 2014
Copyright: 2014 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
USA — Among the concerns of those who oppose legalization of marijuana for medical purposes was that one way or the other, the pot would find its way to young people and encourage more drug use. But the first comprehensive study of teen drug use in the states where marijuana is available for medical uses shows that it just hasn’t happened.
The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, is sure to figure into the ongoing debate over the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The authors, led by Esther K. Choo, of Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, wrote:
Our study suggests that — at least thus far — the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has not increased adolescent marijuana use, a finding supported by a growing body of literature.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now permit use of marijuana for medical purposes, such as relieving pain from chemotherapy.
The researchers looked at reported marijuana use by teens in states where medical marijuana is now legal, both before and after the laws were passed. and compared those numbers with nearby states where pot remains illegal for all purposes, controlling for demographic factors such as gender, age and race that might affect the outcome.
The study used data gathered through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s anonymous Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System survey, which is administered every other year by local and state schools to kids in ninth through twelfth grade.
Although pot use remains common among teens, with one-third saying they’d tried pot before and a fifth reporting use in the past month, the results of the study show medical marijuana laws didn’t increase pot use by teens in any state.
The authors don’t advocate anything as a result of study and advocates of legalization hoping to pass it around state legislatures may want to think twice before doing so. The authors note that:
“Marijuana has a demonstrated impact on the still-developing adolescent brain” and that “in early adolescence, marijuana may have permanent detrimental effects on cognition. Marijuana has also been linked to schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders among adolescents. Longitudinal cohort studies of adolescents using marijuana found associations between use and later respiratory problems, general malaise, and neurocognitive problems, as well as social problems including lower academic achievement and functioning.”
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Gail Sullivan
Published: April 14, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Washington Post Company
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
New York — The Brooklyn district attorney’s office will stop prosecuting people arrested on charges of possessing small amounts of marijuana, according to a confidential policy proposal that the district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, sent to the New York Police Department this month.
The policy is part of a broader push on the part of Mr. Thompson, who took office this year, to look at alternatives to court for low-level offenders. The district attorney’s office is also participating in a task force looking into placing 16- and 17-year-olds who commit low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors, like scrawling graffiti or riding bicycles on sidewalks, into a short behavioral program, rather than the court system.
Defense advocates and community groups across the nation have been pushing the judicial system to rethink the traditional approach to handling small offenses.
Yet the moves have created tension between Mr. Thompson and police officials. The police commissioner, William J. Bratton, has been a proponent of the “broken windows” theory of policing, which holds that arrests for small violations help prevent larger crimes. Mr. Bratton espoused this theory when he was the commissioner under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and, after returning to the department this year, has been directing officers to go after subway panhandlers and peddlers.
Now, the Police Department may have to grapple with how to handle those accused of criminal marijuana possession when, under the proposed policy, prosecution will not follow.
According to the memorandum, when the police bring a low-level marijuana case, and the defendant has no criminal record or a minimal criminal record, “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed” and “the police will be directed to destroy the defendant’s fingerprints.”
Mr. Bratton said he would not “respond to something that I have not basically reviewed in great depth or had discussions with the district attorney about,” but added that the department would continue to make marijuana arrests even as it uses “a lot more discretion” in doing so.
He said he opposed the decriminalization of marijuana, but pledged to “continue to work with the political leadership and to work with the various prosecutors’ offices on how to deal with that issue.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Thompson said in a statement that he was “moving forward on a whole range of smart-on-crime strategies.”
One goal of the proposed marijuana policy, which is still in draft form, is to ensure that “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in nonviolent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property,” according to the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
Marijuana possession is the most common reason for arraignment in New York City: Criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, which is the charge when someone is caught with small amounts of marijuana in public view, has repeatedly been the top arraignment charge in New York City, according to court records.
Processing such cases — there were over 8,500 of them in Brooklyn in 2013 — requires a significant amount of paperwork, staff and logistics, the document says, and more than two-thirds of the cases end up being dismissed.
“We are pouring money and effort into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit for the community,” the memo reads.
According to civil liberties researchers, there is a huge gap between how black and white people are treated: In Brooklyn and Manhattan, black people are nine times as likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana than white people – the highest disparities in the state, according to a 2013 report from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Defense advocates say the charge of possessing marijuana in public became a particular problem with the rise in stop-and-frisk tactics, where their clients were told to empty their pockets and then brought in on misdemeanor charges.
The consequences of even minor charges can be broad, said Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services. And even if a charge is dismissed, people spend up to 24 hours in jail alongside others who have often committed more serious crimes, she said. “Any policy that can move all of these issues in a positive direction is a good policy,” she said.
The Brooklyn borough president, Eric L. Adams, said he supported the proposed policy. “One of the tragedies that took place over these last few years is many of the D.A.s should have done more to red-flag many of these arrests,” Mr. Adams said. “We can’t continue to tie up our court systems with these petty marijuana arrests.”
A statewide push for a law that would decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana fell short in 2012, despite support from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
As Mr. Thompson’s policy on marijuana offenses goes forward, he is also examining how to handle other petty crimes.
A task force that includes the district attorney’s office, the Police Department, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society has been studying how to divert 16- and 17-year-olds from the criminal justice system.
The group has been conducting a pilot program called DAT-Y, run by the nonprofit group Young New Yorkers and aimed at young people who receive desk appearance tickets that charge nonviolent offenses. Rather than going through the court system, the program has the youths attend an arts-based program that promotes critical thinking about good choices — for example, having the attendees sketch out what the effect on their families would be if they were arrested. They graduate at court, in front of Judge George A. Grasso, who oversees arraignments in criminal courts. Court records are then sealed and immediately dismissed.
The task force is looking into expanding the program to all 16- and 17-year-olds given desk appearance tickets.
Joseph Goldstein and J. David Goodman contributed reporting.
Source: New York Times (NY)
Author: Stephanie Clifford
Published: April 23, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The New York Times Company
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Sacramento — Medical marijuana dispensaries in California would have to get state Public Health Department licenses, and doctors who recommend pot would face new standards for examining patients under legislation supported Monday by a state Senate panel.
The measure, supported by members of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, also clarifies the authority of cities and counties to prohibit pot shops within their borders.
Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) said his bill is aimed at practices such as one in the Sacramento area where patients have been issued medical marijuana cards after a few minutes talking to a doctor via Skype and with no physical exam.
“The implementation of medical marijuana laws has been marked by conflicting authorities, regulatory uncertainty, intermittent federal enforcement action and many, many lawsuits,” Correa told the panel.
California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Correa’s bill would require dispensaries and cultivation sites to be licensed by the state Department of Public Health. His bill would require that physicians who recommend marijuana for patients first conduct an “appropriate examination” and periodically review the treatment’s efficacy, discuss side effects with patients and maintain records. For patients under age 21, a pediatrician would have to make the recommendation and the delivery method would be non-smoking.
The bill is sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Assn. and League of California Cities and supported by officers associations from Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana. “It is not medicine for doctors to show up at concerts to give recommendation cards to anyone willing to spend the cash,” said Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher W. Boyd, president of the chief’s association.
The California Medical Assn. opposed the bill unless amended to remove provisions it feels interferes with the practice of medicine. The group opposed a requirement that doctors recommend the type and strength of marijuana used, which could subject physicians to federal enforcement action.
Changes were also requested by Dale Gieringer, director of the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who objected to the bill “interfering in medical practices” and said it is unreasonable to require pediatricians be involved when the patients are age 18 to 20.
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Patrick McGreevy
Published: April 21, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Los Angeles Times
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Posted by CN Staff on April 21, 2014 at 08:17:56 PT
By Sadie Gurman, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press
Denver — Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
The 4:20 p.m. smoke-out in the shadow of the Colorado capitol was the capstone of an Easter weekend dedicated to cannabis in states across the country. Although it is still against the law to publicly smoke marijuana in Colorado, police reported only 130 citations or arrests over the course of the two-day event, 92 for marijuana consumption.
“It feels good not to be persecuted anymore,” said Joe Garramone, exultantly smoking a joint while his 3-year-old daughter played on a vast lawn crowded with fellow smokers.
The Garramone family came from Hawaii, among the tens of thousands who crowded into various cannabis-themed extravaganzas, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup at a trade center north of downtown to 4/20-themed concerts at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. Acts included Slightly Stoopid and Snoop Dogg.
At 4:20 p.m., an enormous plume of marijuana smoke wafted into the sky above downtown Denver as rapper B.o.B. belted out his song “Strange Clouds,” with the hook: “And all we do is light it up, all night/All you see is strange clouds/Strange clouds, strange clouds.”
The Civic Center Park event is the most visible sign of the pot holiday’s transformation. It started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event has an official city permit, is organized by an events management company and featured booths selling funnel cakes and Greek food next to kiosks hawking hemp lollipops and glass pipes.
Gavin Beldt, one of the organizers, said in a statement that the event is now a “celebration of legal status for its use in Colorado and our launch of an exciting new experience for those attending.”
Denver is just one of many cities across the country where 4/20 marijuana celebrations were planned Sunday.
In Trenton, N.J., speakers urged a crowd of about 150 gathered at the statehouse to push state and federal lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize marijuana and called on Gov. Chris Christie to do what he can to help medical marijuana patients. Among those at the rally was Jawara McIntosh, the youngest son of noted reggae musician and pro-marijuana activist Peter Tosh.
In San Francisco, thousands of revelers gathered at Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill, which has become the go-to spot for the unsanctioned festival every year.
City officials said they would be cracking down on illegal parking, camping, drug sales, underage drinking and open alcohol containers. Hippie Hill was covered in canopies as dozens of people sold pot-laced cookies, brownies and other items. Some vendors told the San Francisco Chronicle that sales were slow because so many people were peddling the treats.
Officer Danielle Newman said at least eight people face possible felony charges, but she didn’t elaborate on the reasons for their arrests.
In Washington, thousands celebrated in the only other state to legalize marijuana. Events included one Saturday sponsored by Seattle’s Dope Magazine, with a $99 “judge’s pass” available that included 10 marijuana samples.
Back in Colorado, University of Colorado officials closed the Boulder campus to all but students, faculty and staff on Sunday to ensure no 4/20 celebrations were held. Spokesman Ryan Huff said the tactic was working, with no arrests reported Sunday.
While the weekend was for celebrating, recent events have brought serious scrutiny to Colorado’s experiment with legalizing marijuana. Denver police say a man ate marijuana-infused candy before shooting and killing his wife on Monday, an attack dispatchers heard during a 911 call the woman placed. Her death followed that of a college student who traveled from Wyoming to Colorado with friends for spring break, ate more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumped to his death from a hotel balcony in Denver. State lawmakers are debating how to increase safety regulations.
Marijuana festivities got off to a slow start on Easter Sunday. But as the clock counted down to 4:20 and crowds surged into Civic Center Park, festivalgoers noted the big changes from previous years — more merchandise and more police.
Last year’s rally was cut short by a shooting that wounded three. All attendees this year had to pass through security screening, and a heavy police presence ringed the park.
“I still feel a little like a teenager,” Garramone said as he eyed police patrolling the park.
Just as striking was the proliferation of merchandise, from cannabis-related gear and T-shirts to $9 roast turkey legs and $4 water bottles.
“I can just imagine how much money is being made right now,” said Tina Crockett, 34, of Wichita.
The commercialism disappointed Bob Glisson, 27, who was attending his fourth 4/20 celebration in the park.
“It’s all about the money now,” the Denver resident complained.
Still, the scene was wonderfully surreal for Bud Long, 49, from Kalamazoo, Mich., who recalled taking part in his first 4/20 protest in 1984.
“Nationwide, it’ll be decriminalized,” he predicted on Saturday, the first day of the two-day festival, “and we’ll be doing this in every state.”
Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, Terry Chea in San Francisco, Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Sadie Gurman, Associated Press
Published: April 21, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Posted by CN Staff on April 19, 2014 at 15:43:08 PT
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Source: Bangor Daily News
Bangor, Maine — Entrepreneurs, caregivers, physicians, patients and people who believe pot should be legalized for recreational use packed the third annual Home Grown Maine trade show Saturday.
Sponsored by the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, the show featured a combination of exhibitors and workshops. Information offered ranged from information on greenhouses and grow room construction to security systems to organic cultivation to business formation and taxes.
“This is the best turnout we’ve had in three years,” Paul McCarrier, who organized the show, said as people streamed into the Spectacular Event Center on Griffin Road in Bangor. “We had 500 people come through the doors in the first hour and a half and had to use the parking lot at [the Department of Health and Human Services] office. People are really interested in seeing what we can do for them and they are looking at future employment.”
The total number of people who attended the daylong event was not available Saturday afternoon.
McCarrier said that there are 1,400 caregivers in Maine, who employ 500 people. With just eight dispensaries in Maine, more caregivers and providers are needed.
“We need to break the green ceiling and let small medical marijuana businesses grow and thrive in Maine,” he said.
Lewis Rosero of Columbus, N.J., said that he and his brother came to the show looking for information on how to become caregivers in Maine.
“I’m looking for a way to make a living for my family and live in peace,” Rosero, who has been a general contractor for 15 years, said. “I plan to move up here and provide people with the medicine they need.”
Shelly Baker and Wade Sickler of Brownville Junction came looking for seeds. They both have prescriptions for medical marijuana and grow only for themselves. They came to the show to learn more about how different strains of marijuana are used to treat different ailments.
“It’s very hard to find new strains legally,” she said. “Here, we found all kinds of seeds and made new connections.”
Dr. Dustin Sulak, an osteopath with offices in Falmouth and Manchester, is a leading proponent of medical marijuana use in Maine. He has advocated before the Legislature and helped found the group that sponsored the show.
“My role is bridging the gap between the scientific research with clinical practice and patient use,” he said Saturday.
Jason Drazin of Long Island, N.Y., created an online database that helps match patients to physicians who are familiar with recommending medical marijuana as treatment. Drazin said that he is working to expand marijuanadoctors.com and gather more scientific information in searchable databases.
“I’ve been to all three of these shows and they just keep growing and getting better,” Jeff Clapp of Brunswick said. “The stigma of marijuana use being lifted is a good thing. There have been too many scare tactics used over the years about its use.”
For more information about Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, visit: http://www.mmcmonline.org
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Author: Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Published: April 19, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Bangor Daily News Inc.
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Posted by CN Staff on April 12, 2014 at 07:59:42 PT
By Robin Respaut, Reuters
Reuters — Colorado, the first state to tax legalized recreational marijuana sales, expects to bring in an estimated $98 million in revenue this year, exceeding the state’s original expectations by 40 percent. The state began levying sales and excise taxes on recreational marijuana on January 1, 2014.
Moody’s Investors Service, in a report released Friday, said legal sales in Colorado will reduce the size of the black market and revenue from legal sales will mean more tax payments flowing into state coffers.
The funds are slated for treatment, school construction and deterring young people from using the drug. School districts will likely get $40 million, or nearly 30 percent, of the projected $134 million in total marijuana tax revenues. New revenues will only make up 1.4 percent of the state’s available general fund.
“There’s been a lot of buzz around legalization,” said Andrea Unsworth, a Moody’s analyst. But she cautioned that tax revenues were “still a very small fraction of the state’s overall budget. It’s not going to sway things too much in one way or another.”
Colorado imposed a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana and a 10 percent sales tax on retail sales. That’s in addition to a pre-existing 2.9 percent tax on medical marijuana. Local governments will keep 15 percent of sales tax revenue, while the rest of the money will stay with the state.
Tax collections started off slowly this year, only totaling $7.5 million or $45 million if amortized to the full year. But Moody’s said the new revenues are likely significantly understated in the long term because only a limited number of retail facilities had opened, growers had not yet met buyers’ demand, and many local jurisdictions had yet to issue licenses.
Moody’s projected that the decriminalization of marijuana would likely reduce policing costs, although other enforcement expenditures might also arise. The net effect is uncertain.
In March, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police asked the governor for 10 percent to 15 percent of marijuana’s total tax revenues, citing the need to police unlicensed sales of the drug, diversion to other states, and drivers under the influence of marijuana, among other costs, the report noted.
The only other state to legalize recreational marijuana, Washington, will begin marijuana sales in June.
Reporting By Robin Respaut; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
Source: Reuters (Wire) Author: Robin Respaut, Reuters Published: April 11, 2014 Copyright: 2014 Thomson Reuters
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives http://cannabisnews.com/news/list/cannabis.shtml
USA — Combined sales of legal recreational and medical marijuana in the United States is projected to reach more than $8 billion in 2018. That’s according to a new report by Marijuana Business Daily citing data from the Marijuana Business Factbook, which forecasts that the 2018 retail marijuana industry could see an estimated $7.4 to $8.2 billion in sales.
The projection is based on sales estimates from the state-legal medical and recreational marijuana markets that already exist, as well as 4-5 additional states that are expected to legalize recreational marijuana and 2-3 states expected to legalize medical marijuana by 2018.
Currently, there are 20 states with legal medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington have both legalized recreational marijuana and about a dozen other states are expected to legalize marijuana in some form in the coming years.
This total is conservative - the reality of retail sales could be larger, Chris Walsh, editor of CannaBusiness Media, the publisher of both the Factbook and Marijuana Business Daily, said in a statement. Nor does it include wholesale cannabis sales, or the billions of dollars in ancillary cannabusiness revenues such as growing equipment, real estate, legal fees, testing labs, paraphernalia, etc.
Walsh’s suggestion that sales could exceed that $8 billion mark is supported by another recent study that projects that the U.S. marijuana industry could be worth $10 billion by 2018.
If Colorado’s first two months of legal recreational sales are any sign, the market nationally could see tremendous revenues. In January alone, 59 marijuana dispensaries — a small fraction of the approximately 550 total dispensaries in the state that could qualify to sell legal cannabis — generated $14 million in sales. Sales were also up slightly in February, bringing in a two-month total of about $7.6 million in medical and recreational taxes and fees into the state’s coffers.
Source: Huffington Post (NY) Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post Published: April 11, 2014 Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ URL: http://drugsense.org/url/QAWOsOQi
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The federal government will appeal a March 21 court injunction that lets authorized patients temporarily keep growing their own medical marijuana past April 1, when the old system was to be outlawed.
The move by Health Canada keeps thousands of medical marijuana users off balance as to how long they can continue home growing under personal production licences.
They had been under a federal directive to stop growing, destroy any unused pot and confirm in writing by April 30 they had done so or face potential police enforcement.
Users behind a constitutional challenge of the new medical marijuana rules fear higher prices and lower quality pot under the new system of regulated commercial producers.
It’s unclear how quickly an appeal of the injunction will be heard, but the broader case is expected to go to trial sometime this year.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Monday she is working with organizations of health professionals to address their concerns about the lack of dosage guidelines and appropriate health cautions for medical marijuana use.
“They want clearer guidance on safety and effectiveness and want authorizations to be monitored,” Ambrose said.
She said it’s expected new measures and direction on dosage, educational materials and increased oversight will cut the risk of patients being harmed by being over-prescribed medical pot.
“I want to emphasize that marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. Health Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes.”
Regulators will get data from licensed producers on how much pot each doctor prescribes to patients.
Youth are especially susceptible to potential risks from marijuana use, according to Health Canada, which lists damage to mental function and mental health, including psychosis and schizophrenia.
Sensible BC is planning an April 1 day of protest against the medical marijuana changes.
Organizer Dana Larsen welcomed Ottawa’s move to provide more information on marijuana to doctors and nurses, but remained sharply critical of the planned shift to commercial production.
“Minister Ambrose still has not addressed the fact that the new regulations are going to price thousands of patients out of the market for their medicine.”
Various municipalities opposed the outgoing system of letting users grow their own pot or have other designated growers do it for them, citing fire and other safety risks.
The injunction doesn’t stop the launch of new commercial pot producers, but it may reduce the initial size of their market if many users don’t have to start buying from them.
D.C. Council members introduced legislation Tuesday that would greatly expand the availability of medical marijuana to D.C. patients by doing away with the list of qualifying conditions that currently restrict access to the program.
A bill introduced by Council member Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Health, would eliminate a list of four conditions that currently allow a patient to seek a doctor’s referral to use medical marijuana. Instead the bill would amend the definition of “qualifying medical condition” to mean any condition that would benefit from medical marijuana treatment as determined by the patient’s physician.
The council’s 13 members unanimously sponsored the bill, virtually assuring its eventual passage.
Currently, the District’s tightly regulated program identifies only four illnesses as eligible for medical marijuana treatment — HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis. While officials believe as many as 40,000 of the District’s 640,000 residents could qualify for the city’s medical marijuana program under those conditions, only about 200 patients have been approved since the program got up and running in July.
“It has been made clear that this program is in need of a legislative improvement,” Ms. Alexander said as she introduced the legislation.
In March, the District’s Department of Health announced it would begin accepting petitions from individuals seeking to add new illnesses to the list of qualifying medical conditions, but medical marijuana advocates criticized the process as overly burdensome.
Health department Director Joxel Garcia has testified during prior council hearings that he supports leaving the decision up to doctors rather than government officials.
Ms. Alexander cited Dr. Garcia’s testimony, as well as that of current medical marijuana patients and others who hope to gain access to the drug, as the reason for her support.
“While we are able to legislate what conditions we think are best, it is clear that the medical opinion of a physician should take priority in determining who obtains access to medical marijuana,” Ms. Alexander said.
The legislation loosening the restrictions comes as D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray last week signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana.
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Author: Andrea Noble, The Washington Times
Published: April 8, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC
As the nation’s only truly legal supplier of marijuana, the U. S. government keeps tight control of its stash, which is grown in a 12-acre fenced garden on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
From there, part of the crop is shipped to Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, where it’s rolled into cigarettes, all at taxpayer expense.
Even though Congress has long banned marijuana, the operation is legitimate. It’s run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, which doles out the pot for federally approved research projects.
While U. S. officials defend their monopoly, critics say the government is hogging all the pot and giving it mainly to researchers who want to find harms linked to the drug.
U. S. officials say the federal government must be the sole supplier of legal marijuana in order to comply with a 1961 international drug- control treaty. But they admit they’ve done relatively little to fund pot research projects looking for marijuana’s benefits, following their mandate to focus on abuse and addiction.
“We’ve been studying marijuana since our inception. Of course, the large majority of that research has been on the deleterious effects, the harmful effects, on cognition, behavior and so forth,” said Steven Gust, special assistant to the director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which was created in 1974.
With polls showing a majority of Americans supporting legalization, pot backers say the government should take a more evenhanded approach. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the White House drug czar have become favorite targets to accuse of bias, with both prohibited by Congress from spending money to do anything to promote legalization.
Some critics hope the situation will change; federal officials recently approved a University of Arizona proposal that will let researchers try to determine whether smoking or vaporizing marijuana could help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD. The researchers got the green light to provide the equivalent of two joints per day for 50 veterans.
The approval was a long time coming.
Suzanne Sisley, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine and psychiatry at the University of Arizona’s medical school, said the Health and Human Services Department waited more than three years to approve the project after it was first sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration. She said the extra federal review should be scrapped and that approval by the FDA should be sufficient for a study to proceed.
“Nobody could explain it – it’s indefensible,” she said in an interview. “The only thing we can assume is that it is politics trumping science.”
After the long delay, Sisley said she’s excited to get started and hopes to launch the project late this spring or early this summer, after getting the marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She said pressure by veterans helped get the project approved.
For critics, the process is far too slow. In the fight to sway public opinion, the research battles have assumed a sense of urgency, with opponents and proponents of legalization scrambling to find more evidence to advance their positions.
For opponents, it means trying to link pot use to such things as increased highway deaths, student dropouts and emergency hospital admissions. That could help defeat a plan to legalize pot for recreational use in Alaska, set for an August vote.
For supporters, it means trying to find new ways to use pot to treat diseases. That could get voters in more states to approve medical marijuana; 20 states and the District of Columbia already have done so, and Florida could join the list in November.
Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said President Barack Obama should end the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s monopoly and remove all other research barriers. The legalization of marijuana “is inevitable” and more studies are needed, he said.
“That is exactly why federal law and policies shouldn’t tie the hands of scientists by favoring certain kinds of research over others,” Riffle said.
The national institute’s Gust said the federal government is open to the idea of looking for more medical applications for marijuana and that it’s a “red herring” to say that his agency is blocking research.
“This is an untruth that’s been put out there by certain groups, and quite frankly I wonder if it’s not having the perverse effect of actually decreasing the amount of applications and interest in research,” Gust said.
National Institute on Drug Abuse officials said they gave more than $30 million in government grants to finance 69 marijuana-related research projects in 2012, a big jump from the 22 projects that received less than $ 6 million in 2003. While the institute would not provide exact figures, Gust said it has funded at least five to 10 projects examining possible medical applications.
The institute also provides marijuana for privately funded projects approved by the Health and Human Services Department. Of the 18 research applicants who requested marijuana from 1999 to 2011, 15 got approval, officials said.
The University of Mississippi received nearly $847,000 in 2013 to produce and distribute the pot for the research projects, mainly Mexican, Colombian, Turkish and Indian varieties.
The university grows 6 kilograms ( a little more than 13 pounds ) of marijuana each year, or more if the demand is higher. Nine employees are involved in the work. Among the university’s tasks, it analyzes marijuana confiscated by drug enforcement agents and sends “bulk plant material” to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Institute, just outside of Durham at Research Triangle Park, where marijuana cigarettes are produced and packaged.
Some of the pot is sent to a handful of Americans who won the right to smoke the drug for medical reasons under a court settlement in 1976, 20 years before California became the first state to approve medical marijuana.
A Federal Court judge in Vancouver has granted a last-minute reprieve for medical marijuana users who say they need to be able to grow their own pot at home.
On Friday morning, the judge granted an injunction allowing those who have a personal production licence to grow medical marijuana to continue for now, pending the outcome of a trial to be held at a later date.
Those with an authorization to possess medical marijuana will also be allowed to continue to do so under the injunction, though they will only be permitted to hold up to 150 grams.
Without the injunction, Health Canada’s new laws, which go into effect April 1, would end the home production of medical marijuana.
Instead, all those using medical marijuana would have to purchase it from large-scale commercial facilities that are being set up around the country.
Patients have voiced concern about the cost and the quality of the product they will be able to obtain under the new system.
Abbotsford, B.C., lawyer John Conroy was in court this week seeking the interim injunction for growers.
Conroy alleges that Health Canada’s pronouncements are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Earlier this week, Conroy argued that the new rules create an intractable dilemma for patients.
“If the patient can’t afford the medicine at the prices under the program that’s being produced, then they’re placed in a position where they have to choose between their liberty and their health,” Conroy said.
Without the injunction, patients would have to destroy their plants before April 1 and send notification to Health Canada by April 30 stating that they’ve stopped production and destroyed their plants, or law enforcement would be notified.
The federal government argued in its statement of defence that grow-ops in houses lead to safety problems, such as fire hazards and mould.
The government also argued that home-based grow-ops put people at risk of home invasions — meaning attempted robberies like the one this past weekend
Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 bills related to hemp have been introduced in more than half of the states in the U.S. That’s more than triple the number of hemp bills introduced during the same legislation period last year, and nearly double the total amount of hemp bills introduced in all of 2013.
Added to that is the recent passage of the Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp production for research purposes in states that permit it. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), one of the congressmen who introduced the industrial hemp amendment to the Farm Bill, told The Huffington Post that all the progress on hemp legislation is a key indicator of just how fast policy is changing in the U.S.
“It’s not just turning a corner, it’s turning a corner and running downhill,” Blumenauer said. “The case against industrial hemp production has always been flawed, but now three things are happening. One, we’ve been able to make some significant inroads in a variety of states that have already passed legislation easing [production]. Second, the actual amendment to the Farm Bill was a beacon. And third, we are just seeing [that] the ice dam that has been containing modernization of our marijuana laws generally is cracking.”
Thus far, 12 states have legalized industrial hemp production and about two dozen others have introduced legislation that, if passed, would authorize research, set up a regulatory framework or legalize the growing of industrial hemp in the state.
In February, President Barack Obama signed the Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp production for research purposes. The state bills, like the hemp amendment to the Farm Bill, represent a sharp departure from a long-standing ban on hemp under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which doesn’t make a distinction between marijuana, the drug, and hemp, the plant.
Hemp is the same species as marijuana — Cannabis sativa — but they are cultivated differently in order to enhance or diminish their THC properties, depending on the crop. Hemp contains little to no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana associated with the “high” sensation.
Last year, Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin harvested the first known hemp crop grown on American soil in nearly 60 years, after the 2012 passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use and laid the groundwork for industrial hemp production in the state. An eager Loflin planted 55 acres of hemp before regulations were officially in place, but he met with no interference from the federal government or state officials. With Colorado’s regulations now on the books, the state has become the first in the nation to legally regulate hemp since the federal government allowed for limited production.
Hemp — sometimes called marijuana’s “sober cousin” — has a long history in America, one that skews largely toward legal use and encompasses a range of household products, including paper, oils, cosmetics and textiles. In the 1700s, American farmers were required by law to grow the plant in Virginia and other colonies. For hundreds of years hemp was grown and used to make rope, lamp oil, clothing and much more in the U.S.
American industrial hemp production peaked in 1943, with more than 150 million pounds from 146,200 harvested acres. But production dropped to zero in the late 1950s as a result of “anti-drug sentiment and competition from synthetic fibers,” according to the Associated Press.
Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Published: April 2, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Millions of ordinary Americans are now able to walk into a marijuana dispensary and purchase bags of pot on the spot for a variety of medical ailments. But if you’re a researcher like Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist who studies post traumatic stress disorder, getting access to the drug isn’t nearly so easy.
That’s because the federal government has a virtual monopoly on growing and cultivating marijuana for scientific research, and getting access to the drug requires three separate levels of approval.
Marijuana offers hope for 6-year-old girl with rare condition: In marijuana, Lydia Schaeffer’s family members think they might have found a treatment that works. Now, they are trying to help legalize the drug.
Sisley’s fight to get samples for her study — now in its fourth month — illuminates the complex politics of marijuana in the United States.
While 20 states and the District have made medical marijuana legal — in Colorado and Washington state the drug is also legal for recreational use — it remains among the most tightly controlled substances under federal law. For scientists, that means extra steps to obtain, transport and secure the drug — delays they say can slow down their research by months or even years.
The barriers exist despite the fact that the number of people using marijuana legally for medical reasons is estimated at more than 1 million.
Stalled for decades because of the stigma associated with the drug, lack of funding and legal issues, research into marijuana’s potential for treating diseases is drawing renewed interest. Recent studies and anecdotal stories have provided hope that marijuana, or some components of the plant, may have diverse applications, such as treating cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s disease.
But scientists say they are frustrated that the federal government has not made any efforts to speed the process of research. Over the years, the Drug Enforcement Agency has turned down several petitions to reclassify cannabis, reiterating its position that marijuana has no accepted medical use and remains a dangerous drug. The DEA has said that there is a lack of safety data and that the drug has a high potential for abuse.
Sisley’s study got the green light from the Food and Drug Administration in 2011, and for most studies, that would have been enough. But because the study is about marijuana, Sisley faced two additional hurdles.
First, she had to apply to the Department of Health and Human Services to purchase research-grade samples from the one farm in the United States — housed at the University of Mississippi and managed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse — that is allowed to grow marijuana under federal law. HHS initially denied her application but then approved a revised version March 14 — more than four months after it was submitted.
Now, Sisley must get permission from the DEA to possess and transport the drug.
Spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said that the agency is supportive of medical research on marijuana but needs to follow regulations under the Controlled Substances Act. “DEA has not denied DEA registration to a HHS-approved marijuana study in the last 20-plus years,” she said.
Sisley, who began her work with PTSD while at the Department of Veterans Affairs and now works at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, says she considers the HHS news a “triumph” for marijuana research. But she says the study has “a potentially long road with the DEA who is famous for delays.”
“There is a desperate need for this research, but it’s impossible to study this drug properly in an atmosphere of prohibition,” she said.
Orrin Devinsky, director of the epilepsy center at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said many would-be marijuana researchers are driven to abandon projects after they discover how time-consuming and expensive it can be to obtain the drug.
“There is no rationale for this except for the federal government’s outdated 1930s view about marijuana,” said Devinsky, who is studying the use of an extract of the plant for the control of seizures.
A Resurgence in Research
The cannabis plant was once a staple in American pharmacies, but since the turn of the 20th century, some states began to see it as a poison and introduced restrictions. Research on its medicinal uses came to a virtual standstill.
There are now 156 active researchers who are approved by the DEA to study marijuana — a number that has remained steady in recent years — but scientists say most are government-funded and focus on the ill effects of smoking marijuana rather than on potential medicines.
That’s poised to radically change. As an increasing number of states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, a bustling industry of start-up drug companies and medical groups focused on finding marijuana-based treatments has emerged. GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, is studying two different extracts of marijuana that have shown promise for patients with Type 2 diabetes and epilepsy. ISA Scientific, based in Utah, is researching medications for pain and diabetes made from the cannabinoids found in marijuana that could be swallowed in capsule form.
Some of these new-generation researchers are exploring ways to try to speed up their work by bypassing the federal process for obtaining the drug. In Colorado, for instance, academic researchers have asked state officials whether they would allow them to study extracts grown within the state. In Georgia, scientists are seeking legislative action to allow the state’s five medical research universities to cultivate marijuana. A bill allowing them to do so recently won the backing of a House committee.
Much of the debate surrounding marijuana research is focused on its classification by the DEA as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive of five categories. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Other drugs in that group include LSD, heroin and ecstasy.
The American Medical Association said in November that it does not support state medical marijuana efforts and still considers the drug dangerous. But it also called on the government to encourage more clinical research — by reconsidering its classification as a Schedule I drug. A lower-level classification would allow researchers to obtain marijuana more easily.
The fact that the Obama administration in recent months has moved to loosen restrictions on marijuana in other regards has raised hopes that it will take similar action that will help scientists. The Justice Department said last year that it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana, and in February, the Treasury announced new guidelines meant to make it easier for cannabis businesses to open bank accounts in states where the drug is legal.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House senior adviser for drug policy who has been dubbed the No. 1 legalization enemy by Rolling Stone magazine, said he supports efforts to break down barriers for researchers. But he proposed that this could be done more efficiently without rescheduling the drug — which remains highly controversial and would have implications for the criminal justice system.
Sabet signed a letter sent this month to senior administration officials by a coalition of people working in drug prevention and related causes. The letter suggested that the DEA could instruct field offices to process applications without delay after FDA approval and could relax storage requirements for the components of marijuana used in the context of an investigational new drug.
‘The Whole Process is Wrong’
In the brave new world of medical marijuana, family doctors, psychiatrists and other community practitioners are the gatekeepers and must determine whether a patient truly needs the drug. But in many cases, doctors are prescribing the drug for their patients against the recommendations of medical societies and with only limited research to back up what they are doing.
“The whole process is wrong,” said Andrew Weil, the American doctor and author who conducted the first double-blind clinical trials of marijuana in 1968.
“There is a great deal of evidence both clinical and anecdotal of its therapeutic effects, but the research has been set way back by government polices,” Weil added.
“We are at the point where we are really just learning about this, and for doctors that means a lot of experimentation,” said Bonnie Goldstein, a pediatrician who is medical director of the Ghost Group, which manages WeedMaps.com, a searchable directory of doctors and dispensaries.
In many states, for instance, marijuana is approved for pain and prescribed for those with arthritis. But a study published in the journal of the American College of Rheumatology this month found that the effectiveness and safety of marijuana to treat conditions such as arthritis are not supported by medical evidence.
Another condition for which medical marijuana is widely prescribed is PTSD. Yet the American Psychiatric Association discourages doctors from using it to treat psychiatric disorders. In a statement in November, the APA said, “There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.”
Sisley said she has been working with marijuana for several years to treat soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who have flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety, but she has had questions about dosages that haven’t been answered. Is one gram a day optimal? Or two? Is it better to smoke the marijuana or use a vaporizer, which heats ground marijuana leaves to produce a gas?
Sisley — who is working on the PTSD study with Rick Doblin, a psychologist and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies — says she thinks the next big political fight over marijuana may come from studies such as hers. If research shows that marijuana is an effective medical treatment, it could force the federal government’s hand on reclassifying it.
Starting about 90 miles northwest of Sacramento, an unbroken swath of national forestland follows the spine of California’s rugged coastal mountains all the way to the Oregon border. Near the center of this vast wilderness, along the grassy banks of the Trinity River’s south fork, lies the remote enclave of Hyampom (pop. 241), where, on a crisp November morning, I climb into a four-wheel-drive government pickup and bounce up a dirt logging road deep into the Six Rivers National Forest. I’ve come to visit what’s known in cannabis country as a “trespass grow.”
“This one probably has the most plants I’ve seen,” says my driver, a young Forest Service cop who spends his summers lugging an AR-15 through the backcountry of the Emerald Triangle—the triad of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties that is to pot what the Central Valley is to almonds and tomatoes. Fearing retaliation from growers, the officer asks that I not use his name. Back in August he was hiking through the bush, trying to locate the grow from an aerial photo, when he surprised a guy carrying an iPod, gardening tools, and a 9 mm pistol on his hip. He arrested the man and alerted his tactical team, which found about 5,500 plants growing nearby, with a potential street yield approaching $16 million.
Today, a work crew is hauling away the detritus by helicopter. Our little group, which includes a second federal officer and a Forest Service flack, hikes down an old skid trail lined with mossy oaks and madrones, passing the scat of a mountain lion, and a few minutes later, fresh black bear droppings. We follow what looks like a game trail to the lip of a wooded slope, a site known as Bear Camp. There, amid a scattering of garbage bags disemboweled by animals, we find the growers’ tarps and eight dingy sleeping bags, the propane grill where they had cooked oatmeal for breakfast, and the backpack sprayers they used to douse the surrounding 50 acres with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The air smells faintly of ammonia and weed. “This is unicorns and rainbows, isn’t it?” says Mourad Gabriel, a former University of California-Davis wildlife ecologist who has joined us at the site, as he maniacally stuffs a garbage bag with empty booze bottles, Vienna Beef sausage tins, and Miracle-Gro refill packs.
According to federal stats, trespass grows in California alone account for more than one-third of the cannabis seized nationwide by law enforcement, which means they could well be the largest single source of domestically grown marijuana. Of course, nobody can say precisely how much pot comes from indoor grows and private plots that are less accessible to the authorities. What’s clear is that California’s marijuana harvest is vast—”likely the largest value crop (by far) in the state’s lineup,” notes the Field Guide to California Agriculture. Assuming, as the guide does, that the authorities seize about 10 percent of the harvest, that means they would have left behind more than 10 million outdoor plants last year, enough to yield about $31 billion worth of product. That’s more than the combined value of the state’s top 10 legal farm commodities.
Even before voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot in 2012, marijuana was quasi-legal in California, and not just for medical use. Senate Bill 1449, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, reclassified possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to a maximum $100 infraction—you’ll get a bigger fine for jaywalking in Los Angeles. Indeed, many states have eased restrictions on pot use. But with the exception of Colorado and Washington, whose laws dictate where, how, and by whom marijuana may be grown, they have had little to say about the manner in which it is cultivated—which is challenging to dictate in any case, since growers who cooperate with state regulators could still be prosecuted under federal statutes that classify pot as a Schedule 1 drug, the legal equivalent of LSD and heroin. So where is all this legal and semilegal weed supposed to come from? The answer, increasingly, is an unregulated backwoods economy, the scale of which makes Prohibition-era moonshining look quaint.
To meet demand, researchers say, the acreage dedicated to marijuana grows in the Emerald Triangle has doubled in the past five years. Like the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, this “green rush,” as it is known locally, has brought great wealth at a great cost to the environment. Whether grown in bunkers lit with pollution-spewing diesel generators, or doused with restricted pesticides and sown on muddy, deforested slopes that choke off salmon streams during the rainy season, this “pollution pot” isn’t exactly high quality, or even a quality high. “The cannabis industry right now is in sort of the same position that the meatpacking industry was in before The Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair,” says Stephen DeAngelo, the founder of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, a large medical marijuana dispensary. “It simply isn’t regulated, and the upshot is that nobody really knows what’s in their cannabis.”
It’s not just stoners who are at risk. Trespass grows have turned up everywhere from a stand of cottonwoods in Death Valley National Park to a clearing amid the pines in Yosemite. “I now have to spend 100 percent of my time working on the environmental impacts of marijuana,” says Gabriel, who showed up at Bear Camp in military-style cargo pants and a kaffiyeh scarf. “I would never have envisioned that.”
Gabriel grew up in Fresno, the son of immigrants from Mexico and Iraq, at a time when the Central Valley city was plagued by turf wars among pot-dealing street gangs, notably the local Norteños chapter and their rivals, the Bulldogs. That world did not interest Gabriel, who spent a lot of his free time catching frogs and crawdads on the banks of the San Joaquin River. His love of the outdoors led him to study wildlife management at Humboldt State University, where he became fascinated with fishers, the only predators besides mountain lions clever and tough enough to prey on porcupines. The fisher, which resembles the love child of a ferret and a wolverine, was nearly eradicated from the West by logging and trapping during the early 20th century. It still hasn’t rebounded. This year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will consider listing it as a threatened species.
When Gabriel first began venturing into the woods to trap and radio-collar fishers, he assumed that most of them were dying from bobcat attacks, disease, and cars running them over. But then, in 2009, he discovered a dead fisher deep in the Sierra National Forest that showed no signs of any of those things. A toxicology test indicated that it had ingested large quantities of rat poison.
Back in his lab, he tested frozen tissue from 58 other fisher carcasses he’d collected on some of California’s most remote public lands and found rodenticide traces in nearly 80 percent of them. Rat poison isn’t used in national forests by anyone except marijuana cultivators, who put it out to protect their seedlings. Rodents that eat the poison stumble around for a few days before they die, making them easy prey for hungry fishers.
In 2012, after Gabriel published his rat poison results, he was the target of angry calls and messages. One person accused him of helping the feds “greenwash the war on drugs.” Another made vague threats against his family and his dogs. Gabriel also received a prying email, later traced by federal agents to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, soliciting the locations of his home, office, and field study sites. In Lost Coast Outpost and other local news sites, commenters shared links to his home address. “Snitches end up in ditches,” one warned.
Then, last month, Gabriel’s Labrador retriever, Nyxo, died after someone fed him meat infused with De-Con rat bait.
The types of threats Gabriel has received are not uncommon, and they have frightened scientists away from studying the environmental impacts of pot farming. “At my university, there is nobody who will even go near it,” says Anthony Silvaggio, a sociologist with the state university’s Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research. Biologists who used to venture into the wilderness alone to survey wildlife now often pair up for protection. In July 2011, armed growers in the Sequoia National Forest chased a federal biologist through the woods for a half-hour before giving up. The following year, researchers surveying northern spotted owls on Humboldt County’s Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation were shot at with high-caliber rifles. Each growing season, a significant chunk of one designated fisher habitat in the Sierra National Forest becomes inaccessible to scientists because it’s dangerously close to illegal gardens.
Gabriel won’t go near a known grow site before it’s been cleared by law enforcement, as Bear Camp has. Scattered across the hillside, his team finds 4,200 pounds of chemical fertilizer, five kinds of insecticide, and three kinds of rodenticide. The stash includes a restricted pesticide capable of killing humans in small doses. Gabriel’s friend and colleague Mark Higley dons a gas mask and seals the canister in a garbage bag. “If it does erupt, I want everyone to be at least 20 to 30 feet away,” Gabriel warns. “It’s aluminum phosphide, and when it hits the air, it turns into phosphine gas.” Breathing it can kill you.
The Emerald Triangle’s pot culture has changed a lot since the hippies drove up from San Francisco in the early 1970s in search of peace, freedom, and blissful communion with nature. At first, the back-to-the-landers grew pot primarily for themselves, but news that the United States was paying to have Mexican pot farms sprayed with paraquat, a toxic weed killer, convinced American stoners to seek out the hippie weed.
Before long, Humboldt had become a name brand, but marijuana might never have come to define the Emerald Triangle had the old-growth timber industry not logged itself out of business by the mid-1990s. In 1996, when California became the first state to legalize pot for medical use, out-of-work loggers took advantage of the opportunity. “Then you had everybody like, ‘Sure, I’ll grow some weed,’” recalls Humboldt State’s Silvaggio. The size of the harvest grew, helped along by post-9/11 border enforcement, which made it harder for Mexican pot to enter the country. The latest leap in production was the result of Prop. 19, California’s 2010 legalization measure; although it lost narrowly at the polls, the Emerald Triangle’s growers boosted output in anticipation of having a mainstream product. Now marijuana “is all we have,” Silvaggio says. “Every other thing is built here to serve that economy.”
Drive around the Emerald Triangle during harvest season with the radio on, and you’ll hear ads openly pitching Dutch hydroponic lamps, machines “for trimming flowers,” and 2,800-gallon water storage tanks—because “you don’t want to be the one that has to call the water truck in for multiple water deliveries late in the season.” Even mainstream businesses like furniture stores get in on the green rush with “harvest sales.” Talk of bud-trimming parties and the going price per pound dominates restaurant conversations. And in backwoods hamlets where you’d expect high unemployment, you come across a lot of $50,000 pickups.
As with much of the state’s agricultural industry, the pot trade is stratified, and much of the labor is done by undocumented farmworkers. The man arrested at Bear Camp confessed to the police that he’d traveled north from Michoacán, Mexico, to pick apples in Washington, but knew he could make more money tending pot in California. Industry observers believe that at least some of the trespass grows are run from south of the border, but Silvaggio adds that many are financed by locals. Either way, the grunt workers tend to be the only ones busted when the grows are raided.
Although the original Northern California growers saw pot cultivation as an extension of their hippie lifestyles, their environmental values haven’t readily carried over to the next generation. “They are given a free pass to become wealthy at a young age, to get what they want,” Silvaggio explains. “And do you think they are going to give it up when they turn 20, with a kid in the box? They can’t get off that gravy train.” But with prices dropping as domestic supply expands, “you can’t go smaller; you’ve got to go bigger these days to make the amount of money you used to make. So what does that mean? You have to get another generator. You have to take more water. You’ve got to spray something because you may lose 20, 30 grand if you don’t.”
Smaller growers operating on their own properties tend to use slightly better environmental practices— avoiding rodenticides, for instance—than the industrial growers who have moved in solely to make money. Even so, Silvaggio says, “we found that it’s just a tiny fraction of folks who are growing organic.”
Among the downsides of the green rush is the strain it puts on water resources in a drought-plagued region. Scott Bauer, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, calculates that irrigation for cannabis farms has sucked up all of the water that would ordinarily keep local salmon streams running through the dry season. Marijuana cultivation, he believes, “is a big reason why” at least 24 salmon and steelhead streams stopped flowing last summer. “I would consider it probably the No. 1 threat” to salmon in the area, he told me. “We are spending millions of dollars on restoring streams. We are investing all this money in removing roads and trying to contain sediment and fixing fish path barriers, but without water there’s no fish.”
At Bear Camp, Gabriel leads me to a steep slope where the growers have plugged a freshwater spring with a makeshift dam of logs and tarps, one of 17 water diversions found at the site. Where moisture-loving ferns and horsetails should be flourishing, a plastic pipe leads downhill to a 1,000-gallon reservoir feeding a vast irrigation network. Gabriel unkinks a hose to release an arc of water from a sprinkler. National Guard troops enlisted to help out have already yanked the cannabis plants here, leaving behind a hillside of girdled white oaks and bare soil. “When we have a two-to-four-inch rain, this will just be a mud river,” Gabriel says. Sediment laced with pesticides and other chemicals will find its way into the salmon stream below. We hike down to a clearing where a helicopter is pulling out sling loads of irrigation piping. “Look at this!” Gabriel shouts after plunging into a thicket to help the soldiers rip out another dam. “Insect killer right in the middle of it!”
He and his colleagues have seen much worse. At a grow site in July, he found a fisher that had died from eating one of many poisoned hot dogs strung around the site on a trotline. A state game warden raiding a grow in 2011 discovered a black bear and her cubs convulsing on the ground, having eaten into a stash of pesticides. Two threatened northern spotted owls, the species once at the center of a bitter fight between loggers and environmentalists, tested positive for rodenticides in Gabriel’s lab; he’s now looking into whether toxins from grow sites could be impeding that species’ recovery as well. “When there is no adequate regulatory framework,” Silvaggio warns, “you are going to have nature taking a hit.”
Most growers just want to be left alone, but the small minority who are politically outspoken tend to favor regulation. Kristin Nevedal chairs the Emerald Growers Association, the triangle’s marijuana trade group. The coauthor of an ecofriendly pot-farming guide, she often consults with state and local lawmakers about how to make the industry more responsible. “Prohibition hasn’t curbed the desire for cannabis,” she says. “So we really need to look at changing our policy and starting to treat it like agriculture, so we can manage it.”
One of the most serious efforts on that front was a system put in place by Mendocino County, which as of 2010 allowed the cultivation of up to 99 plants, provided growers registered and tagged each one with zip ties purchased from the county. Sheriff’s deputies monitored the grow sites and checked that they complied with environmental laws. “That program was in a lot of ways fabulous,” Nevedal recalls. Almost 100 growers participated, but the program was shut down in early 2012, after federal agents raided one of the grows and US Attorney Melinda Haag hinted that she might just take the county to court. Later that year, a federal grand jury subpoenaed the county’s zip tie records.
Since then, efforts to regulate pot farming have mostly shifted to the state level. In Colorado, pot vendors are required to list on their packaging all the farm chemicals used to produce their products, and the state recently implemented a “seed to sale” tracking system. Most Coloradans grow indoors due to the climate, which reduces pesticide use and makes it easier to keep pot off the black market, but it’s highly energy intensive. In the journal Energy Policy, researcher Evan Mills estimated that indoor grows suck up enough electricity to supply 1.7 million homes—in California, they account for a whopping 9 percent of household energy use. The newly minted regulations for Washington state allow outdoor grows so long as they are well fenced and outfitted with security cameras and an alarm system.
In the next few years, new legalization measures appear destined for the ballot in California, Alaska, and Oregon. But while it may help create a market for responsibly grown cannabis, legalizing pot in a few states won’t wipe out the black market, with its steep environmental toll. There’s simply too much money to be made shipping weed to New Yorkers at $3,600 per pound, and too few cops to find all the grows and rip them out. “The trespass grows are really an issue because of prohibition,” says Gary Hughes, the executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, a 37-year-old Emerald Triangle environmental group that cut its teeth fighting the logging industry. “It is not the growers who are a disease. They are just a symptom. The real disease is the failed drug war.”
Yet without the drug war, the region’s pot sector might fade into oblivion. Take away the threat of federal raids, and to some extent pot becomes just another row crop, grown en masse wherever it’s cheapest. “A shift in cultivation to the Central Valley is definitely possible,” Hughes acknowledges.
There will likely still be a niche for the Emerald Triangle growers who started it all, Nevedal believes, just as there has been for craft whiskey distilleries in post-Prohibition Kentucky. Growing really good weed is simply too much work and too much strain on the environment to make sense on an industrial scale. As it happens, Nevedal speculates, the Emerald Triangle might just end up where it started, providing artisanal dank for a high-end market. “The future,” she says, “is the small family farm.”
Josh Harkinson is a staff reporter at Mother Jones.
The House Budget Committee isn’t the most august room in Congress, but it commands respect, what with its oil portraits of former chairmen including Leon Panetta, who went on to be Defense Secretary and CIA director.
But it was the site on Tuesday of a briefing by the National Cannabis Industry Association, which you can think of as the pot trade group. So it’s probably not surprising that one of the questions asked of Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat leading the fight for reform of federal marijuana laws, was how many of his colleagues smoked pot.
Five or 10, he guessed. But he noted he’d never seen any smoke. And besides, since the House is made up of so many old members, the number was bound to be small.
It’s a sign of how far the cannabis industry has grown that their leaders are here in Washington, chatting up reporters and fanning out to meet their representatives the same way, say, onion growers might. With marijuana decriminalized in Washington state and Oregon and medical marijuana allowed in 20 other states and the District of Columbia, those who sell and distribute legal weed need a voice in Washington where any number of laws and regulations still treat them like outlaws.
For instance, because of laws designed to keep drug cartels from protecting their financial assets, it’s almost impossible for cannabis dealers to use regular banks for their business, forcing them to carry around bundles of cash as if they were, um, drug dealers.
What’s worse, some dispensaries have had to segregate their cash so it doesn’t smell like pot. Making payroll, buying goods from suppliers, all with cash, is like something from the Middle Ages. The Obama administration has tried to ease some federal banking regulations, but it’s not clear whether that’ll be enough to convince skittish banks — loathe to run afoul of Dodd-Frank, let alone this — to let cannabis dealers open checking accounts or give them loans.
To boot, cannabis dealers are not allowed to deduct their business expenses because of IRS regulations aimed at drug dealers. With an effective tax rate that can run as high as 85 percent, the cannabis industry has won the support of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which has joined in the fight to repeal the regulation. Any number of other laws are keeping cannabis dealers in the doghouse even as voters have made their voices clear across the country.
While public attitudes about marijuana have moved sharply in recent years — as a group, only voters over 65 believe it should remain illegal — the political climate hasn’t caught up with public opinion. Only a modest number of Congressmen have instituted support for the many bills and laws aimed at treating cannabis sales like any other business.
One of them is Dana Rohrabacher, one of President Ronald Reagan’s White House speechwriters, who represents the beautiful coastline of southern Orange County, Calif. (The Oliver Stone drug movie, Savages, was set in Laguna Beach, part of Rohrabacher’s district.)
Rohrbacher is a longtime surfer, even at age 66, a firebrand conservative and an outspoken critic of “communist China,” who suggested this week that Obama could be impeached over executive actions on health care and immigration. Still, criminalizing marijuana, Rohrbacher said, “is an absolute waste.” He added: “What is freedom all about? It’s about your right to make decisions.” But he concedes his colleagues will likely prove slow to embrace an issue they think would hurt them politically.
To help soften the mood on Capitol Hill, the cannabis trade association asked Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, to test public attitudes about marijuana. She found a widespread and growing acceptance of pot legalization, one reflected in other polls and also in popular culture where stoner comedies are blockbuster movies.
The data, though, show that the same forces that suggest the Democrats will do poorly in the midterm elections in November — low turnout among all groups save for the elderly, who lean right — create a climate that could spook some Congressmen from backing a change in the marijuana laws.
Asked if his GOP colleagues might be sympathetic to the argument, Rohrabacher says his fellow Republicans would favor pot reform if it were a secret ballot. Getting them out in the open won’t be easy.