By the federal government’s own estimates, the number of medical marijuana patients in Canada could grow from just under 40,000 to 400,000 in the next decade — with half of them residing in B.C.
New regulations introduced April 1 appear to be hastening growth in the number of patients.
And Lower Mainland medical marijuana dispensaries are filling the void, offering ingenious ways to deliver patients’ pot prescriptions.
Vancouver alone has more than 20 storefront pharmacies offering amenities such as cannabis oil massages, juice bars, in-house naturopaths and Wi-Fi vapour lounges in an attempt to stand out in an increasingly crowded market of dispensaries.
Before new regulations came in, patients applied to Health Canada, a lengthy process requiring a doctor’s note. Now, doctors can issue medical marijuana exemptions directly.
Anticipating a new wave of customers, Matteo Suleyman, manager of the Sea to Sky Alternative Healing Society, just opened his second location on Vancouver’s East Second Avenue (His first shop, opened in December, is on Fraser Street.)
Suleyman’s clinic boasts a lounge, in-house naturopathic doctor and smoothie bar where patients can get custom-blended medicinal juice.
“We want to make it easier,” Suleyman said of his service innovations. “We’d like to educate people that you can heal yourself without pharmaceutical drugs.”
Other clinics boast similar attractions. In May, the B.C. Pain Society on Commercial Drive debuted a marijuana vending machine. Eden Medicinal Society has a vapour lounge with Wi-Fi, computer games, pool and foosball tables. Canna Clinic Medicinal Society, which opened a third branch on Granville Street in April, provides in-house cannabis oil massages.
Suleyman believes the clinic boom is due, in part, to non-aggressive law enforcement.
“People are still working in a grey area because we’re not legal to do this yet. But when people saw police in Vancouver weren’t going to interfere, it gave them more motivation and security,” he said.
The Vancouver Police aren’t in a rush to make busts.
However, the sale of marijuana is illegal, said VPD Const. Brian Montague, adding, “while these dispensaries are not a priority, it does not mean that they can’t become a priority if public safety becomes a concern.”
Health Canada regulations are clear. Authorized medical marijuana patients — 15,000 of them in B.C. alone — can only legally obtain medicine by direct mail from one of 13 approved producers in Canada, or by growing their own if approved for home-production (some 10,900 in B.C. are approved), or from another approved home-producer (1,800 in B.C.).
Yet Health Canada’s own statistics suggest many registered patients source medicine elsewhere: only 5,120 patients buy from sanctioned producers.
These developments set the stage for a boom in the medical marijuana cultivation industry, which the government estimates could reach $1.3 billion by 2024.
“If demand increases, capacity will increase as well. There is no limit to the number of producers Health Canada is going to authorize,” said the president of Bedrocan Canada, a licensed producer in Toronto with 1,000 patients.
In the past decade, Health Canada received 858 applications to produce marijuana. Of those applications, 289 of them — 101 of them in B.C. — are being seriously considered.
With the legislative session in Albany scheduled to end Thursday, a vote is possible on a bill to legalize medical marijuana. Some members of the region’s delegation say they could support a bill, provided strict controls are attached.
If Governor Andrew Cuomo, and leaders of the Senate and Assembly reach a compromise on the “Compassion Care Act,” Assemblymember Michael Kearns, a Buffalo Democrat, says he believes it would pass both houses.
“I would not support the legalization of marijuana,” Kearns said.
“But as you can see, it’s an issue that’s so important. And it has a health benefit to many people. So I did meet with the sponsor. I did have some concerns, but I did support medical marijuana.”
The bill’s cosponsor Assemblymember Ray Walter says a lot of people, including children with cancer, are suffering without the drug.
“This will be very strictly controlled for a certain number of listed ailments,” said Walter, an Amherst Republican.
“It will be very tightly controlled from seed to sale. So it will not be able to fall in the wrong hands.”
In recent years, the Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill five times. If it passes the Senate this week, Walter says the bill will be amended again, making the drug even more strictly controlled.
When Chuck Rifici and his business partners set out to promote their startup, they didn’t buy advertising. Instead, they took the company public.
It was an unconventional move, but Mr. Rifici’s company isn’t exactly a conventional one. Tweed Marijuana is one of Canada’s new batch of legal medical marijuana growers and while these companies sell directly to consumers, they’re banned from advertising.
“A lot of typical marketing and adverting are non-starters for us,” says Mr. Rifici, whose company grows marijuana at a former chocolate factory outside of Ottawa. “We’re working with a controlled substance.”
On April 1, the federal government opened-up what it calls a “free market” for medical marijuana. Under the new rules, anyone can apply for a license to grow medical marijuana and sell it directly to patients. It’s a big change from the old system, when legal users were allowed to grow their own, have a designated person grow it for them or buy it from Health Canada’s single designated supplier, Prairie Plant Systems.
The new rules have also made access to medical marijuana easier. Patients used to require the approval of two doctors and specific permission from Health Canada. Now, it only takes a simple prescription-like document from a physician.
But while access may be easier, medical marijuana is now considered a narcotic and governed by some of the same rules that apply to drugs like morphine. Those rules ban promoting narcotics to anyone but a doctor.
“They really didn’t want anyone to go out there and say ‘this is why our product is better,” says Anton Mattadeen, chief strategy officer atMediJean, one of over 800 companies that have applied to enter the medicinal marijuana market. The company currently has a license to grow marijuana for research and development but not to sell it, though that’s in the works.
While Canada’s marijuana growers may be able to advertise, there’s nothing preventing them from talking about the issues around marijuana and its use as medicine.
That’s the approach that MediJean has taken: organizing debates that put doctors, patients and police officers in the same room in an effort to “create value for the brand through an open conversation with all stakeholder groups,” says Mr. Mattadeen.
While many of these groups already have stances on the issue, Mr. Mattadeen all of their options are “in silos.” By bringing the focus back to patients, he thinks the company can win people over.
“I think quite quickly in this debate people forget that there is an actual patient and that patient is suffering,” Mr. Mattadeen says. That may help the company reach one group that’s essential for its long-term success: doctors.
“A lot of doctors are still on the fence,” says Mr. Mattadeen.
Speaking the same language as doctors is a big focus for the company, even down to its online presence. “One of the reasons we created the site like we did was to make doctors feel comfortable,” says Mr. Mattadeen.
That’s the way it looks to Lea Prevel Katsanis, a marketing professor at Concordia University, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry before going into academia. She says the company’s website reminded her of “traditional, big pharma.”
While Mr. Mattadeen says MediJean looked at the way pharmaceuticals have generally been promoted, it isn’t exactly what the company is going for.
“We didn’t need to emulate big pharma, we can have a much more intimate conversation,” says Mr. Mattadeen. Still, science is front and centre throughout the company’s branding.
“We have created a state of the art lab,” Mr. Mattadeen says. Instead of cloning, MediJean uses tissue culturing, a process where cells are grown separately from the plant. This will give much tighter control over the medical ingredients in its products.
“The biggest problem for the patient is consistency,” says Mr. Mattadeen. “The old program couldn’t guarantee the right strain.” That means patients can be tested and given a strain specifically tailored to their symptoms.
Ms. Katsanis says this sounds a lot like what doctors are interested in. “This is huge for oncologists, they’re already using personalized medicine,” she says.
The company is also planning to conduct an “anonymized, ongoing study with our patients,” Mr. Mattadeen says.
If the study shows positive results that will be appealing to doctors. “The real issue is giving credibility to medical marijuana,” says Ms. Katsanis. “As a marketer who marketed drugs to physicians, you have to have clinical evidence.”
With growing concern about the over-prescription of opiates, the timing might be right for medical marijuana to win over the medical community, Ms. Katsanis says. “Patients and physicians are seeking better ways to manage pain,” she says and that means there’s a huge market for prescription drug substitutes.
While reaching doctors is important, it’s not the only factor for medical marijuana marketers. For Tweed, which began shipping its product to customers on May 5, timing was everything. “Being part of the first cohort” was key, Mr. Rifici says. “We know there’s more competition coming.”
So far, Health Canada has only licensed 13 companies to begin distributing. But with around 400 more waiting in the wings, that number is set to grow. And being in the market early might be even more important for medical marijuana than for other new products, patients can’t change which distributor they buy from without going back to their doctor.
“It’s the ones who get the patients first who are going to be the winners,” says Ms. Katsanis, “it’s very much a first-mover market.”
But there’s no first-mover advantage if your customers don’t know you exist. “If customers can’t remember your name, you’ve already lost,” says Mr. Rifici.
That’s why Tweed went public. Counting on the visibility that would come with being the first medical marijuana grower traded on a North American stock exchange. As part of “the process of going public, you have to build the whole business to be transparent,” he says. It’s a strategy that has the company issuing press releases on a regular basis in an effort to stay in the media.
While the company wasn’t looking to raise money when it decided to go public, that’s changed. In late April Tweed completed a private placement that saw it raise over $15-million to accelerate its expansion plans.
It’s a telling example of just how fast the industry is moving. After all, the rules that went into effect on April 1 were only announced last June.
That’s what drew Mr. Rifici to medical marijuana in the first place. “It was the opportunity to build something new fast,” he says. “It’s very rare that there’s this large a shift. Where there’s a strong demand, where the market is there, but the supply chain is completely changed.”
Despite the tough regulations, both Mr. Rifici and Mr. Mattadeen say they think Health Canada has done a good job.
“They’ve created a framework that leads the world,” says Mr. Mattadeen. “It’s an uncomfortable topic for the government but they’ve dealt with it.”
A new Canadian contest is stirring the pot with, well, pot.
The Get Happy Canada contest, created by Lift, is giving one resident free medical marijuana for a year.
Lift is a B.C.-based online marketplace that provides information about Canadian medical marijuana companies and strains. It launched the contest on Monday to “raise awareness about the benefits of Health Canada’s new medical marijuana program,” states a press release.
Under Canada’s new medical pot laws, which came into effect on April 1, patients are required to buy marijuana from licensed commercial growers.
But many Canadians who could benefit from medical marijuana are not aware of its upsides or how to access it under the new system, the company says. And that’s where the contest comes in.
Lift doesn’t grow or sell marijuana, so the winner will still have to place orders through one of the country’s licensed producers — which requires a doctor prescription. But from there, Lift will foot the bill (for up to one gram per day for 365 days).
The contest closes July 18.
Washington D.C. Council members is pushing forward with a plan to dramatically expand the amount of conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana. Right now there is a very short list of approvable conditions to qualify for D.C.’s medical marijuana program. If/When the changes are adopted, it would be solely up to a doctor to determine if a patient qualifies for medical marijuana. Per the Washington Post:
D.C. Council members pressed forward with plans to broadly expand access to medical marijuana in the nation’s capital Thursday, drawing praise from residents suffering from an array of conditions that they say should qualify them for legal use of the plant.
Under legislation that all 13 council members have pledged to support, the bill would strike from D.C. law a narrow list of four conditions — including AIDS and spasms — that qualify residents to apply for the legal purchase of marijuana. New guidelines would leave it up to D.C. doctors to decide whether a patient might benefit from marijuana.
Washington D.C. has been in the news a lot lately for marijuana reform. Recently the Washington D.C. Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession, making it a mere $25 fine for low level marijuana possession. That is arguably the best marijuana decriminalization law in the country, although it’s still awaiting approval from Congress, but is expected to go into effect soon. There is also a marijuana legalization campaign gathering signatures in Washington D.C.. I’m encouraging all readers to make a donation to the campaign. You can donate to the D.C. campaign here.
Doctors should be the decision makers when it comes to determining whether or not someone needs medical marijuana. Why politicians and law enforcement feel that they are better qualified to make that decision is beyond me. Doctors know their patients, and know medicine. Law enforcement is not qualified in anyway to determine what medicine is appropriate for a patient. And politicians…well, they are not qualified to do anything at all as far as I can tell!
Marijuana use, cultivation and black market trafficking remain “pervasive” in Oregon, a trend fostered by Mexican drug cartels, Asian gangs and the state’s own medical marijuana program,a new law enforcement report concludes.
The findings were part of a “threat assessment” by Oregon HIDTA, a federally funded agency that manages law enforcement resources in high-intensity drug trafficking areas of the state. The report paints a grim portrait of drug trafficking and abuse in Oregon, particularly when it comes to heroin.
On marijuana, the conclusions echo complaints law enforcement officials have raised over the prevalence and black market availability of the drug, particularly cannabis grown under Oregon’s medical marijuana program.
Law enforcement officials have long argued that the drug’s increased potency and widespread cultivation by organized crime and medical marijuana cardholders lead to abuse and illicit trafficking.
The report comes as marijuana legalization advocates in the state and nationally push to get an initiative on the fall ballot.
Nearly all police surveyed this year reported a “high level of marijuana” available in their area “with more than one-third” reporting that the drug was more available this year compared to 2013.
Use of marijuana by Oregon residents is greater when compared with other states; the latest national survey found that in 2011 and 2012, Oregon ranked fourth in the country for cannabis use by people 12 and older, with most consumers between 18 and 25. (The top three: Rhode Island, Alaska and Vermont.)
Among the report’s findings:
— The popularity of hash oil is on the rise. Butane, a flammable solvent, is often used to make the potent marijuana concentrate. The report cites a recent investigation by The Oregonian into butane hash oil, which identified nine major BHO-related explosions since 2011, including one that killed a Portland man.
“Liquid THC production – – and incidence of butane hash oil lab explosions — is expected to rise as the market expands for marijuana edibles and demand increases for product that has a strong psychoactive effect,” the report notes.
— Oregon State Police data shows that between 2008 and 2013, toxicology tests detected marijuana more than any other drug, not including alcohol, in impaired driving investigations. The rate of detection increased percent between 2010 and 2013, the report found.
— The report also notes that “accidental exposure” to marijuana is an ongoing concern. An analysis of U.S. poison center data shows the rate of “unintentional marijuana exposure” in children younger than 9 more than tripled between 2005 and 2011 in states that passed marijuana decriminalization legislation before 2005.
The director of the Oregon Poison Center told The Oregonian on Monday that the center receives between two and 15 calls a year related to children accidentally ingesting marijuana. Sandy Giffin, the director, said it’s hard to determine whether there’s been an increase in marijuana-related calls since the numbers are small.
— While Mexico remains a chief foreign source of heroin, meth and marijuana, Oregon’s medical marijuana program’s generous plant and possession limits make it a source for black market marijuana. People designated as caregivers are allowed to care for an unlimited number of medical marijuana patients, each allowed up to 11/2 pounds of marijuana. Caregivers with many patients may “exploit the program by claiming they are growing for legitimate OMMP patients,” according to the report.
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program includes nearly 60,000 patients; 30,000 people hold caregiver cards as well.
“The large number of cardholders, coupled with the high volume of plants cultivated, the difficulties associated with investigating compliance, and the attraction of selling surplus amounts on the black market for substantial profit and little risk has resulted in incidents of non-compliance in the HIDTA region and statewide,” the report states.
(The Oregonian examined the black market trafficking of medical marijuana in this 2012 investigation.)
— Grow sites also remain potential targets for theft and violence, the report says, relying on anecdotal evidence including a 2012 fatal shooting during a Cottage Grove home invasion robbery. In 2010, detectives executive a search warrant on a Douglas County grow site encountered booby traps that entailed shotgun shells “rigged to explode at chest level if a trip line was triggered.”
— Marijuana’s potency also is on the rise, HIDTA reports. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration analysis found the average THC in seized samples reached 15.1 percent – the highest level recorded since the agency began testing in 1976.
— Though the state seized fewer outdoor marijuana plants in 2012 and 2012, Mexican cartel operations “remain Oregon’s primary production and trafficking threat.” Law enforcement officials suspect cartel-operated outdoor marijuana production will shift to areas of the state with fewer police resources.
“Budgetary shortfalls will continue to impact the ability of law enforcement officers to effectively locate and eradicate outdoor grow sites due to prioritization of resources, displacement of staff, and diminished provision of flight time,” the authors note.
— When it comes to indoor marijuana cultivation, Oregon continues to be one of the top 10 states for indoor seizures, ranking fourth in the nation in 2012. About half of the total indoor plants seized last year in Oregon were linked to non-compliant medical marijuana grow sites.
The authors speculate that the medical marijuana program will be exploited to “encourage larger indoor marijuana grow operations,” which will “contribute to the volume of marijuana trafficking through and out of the state.”
— Noelle Crombie
Recently the United States House of Representatives voted to defund DEA medical marijuana raids in states that have passed legislation to legalize them. The United States Senate has yet to approve the measure, and it seems that the effort faces an uphill battle in the chamber. However, supporters in the United States House of Representatives have received backing from the Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, this week. Per Vermont Public Radio:
Gov. Peter Shumlin says he supports an effort in Congress to block the federal government from cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. Twenty-two states, including Vermont, have enacted medical marijuana laws in the past few years.
“We’re doing the right thing for folks that need marijuana for medical purposes,” said Shumlin. “I think that Congress’s action just adds more voices to the common sense approach to marijuana policy.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is joining a majority of Americans who agree that the federal government should leave medical marijuana states alone. State voters and/or legislatures have spoken, and have clearly established that they want to decide who deserves to have safe access to medical marijuana. Why the DEA feels the need to trample on state’s rights and harass state medical marijuana program participants and dispensary owners is beyond me.
Recently the DEA notified doctors in Massachusetts who are affiliated with medical marijuana centers that they would revoke their license if they continued to work with the medical marijuana industry. This form of harassment is unacceptable. If a qualified doctor feels that a form of medicine will help a patient, that should be enough. The DEA should not take it upon themselves to interfere. It’s beyond time to defund the DEA, not just for medical marijuana raids, but altogether.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia now have laws allowing for some form of medical marijuana.
Florida appears is poised to join the club. Polls show that voters there are likely to approve a November ballot measure legalizing marijuana for medical use.
If it passes, regulations that would set up a market for medical marijuana in Florida are still at least a year away. But cannabis entrepreneurs from around the country are already setting up shop in the state.
In Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando, there’s a business conference every few weeks devoted to a product that’s still illegal.
There are a lot of names for marijuana, but in the industry, they mostly call it cannabis. Tom Quigley runs a group called the Florida Cannabis Coalition. Don’t confuse that with the Florida Medical Cannabis Association or the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, just three of the dozens of groups started in the months since it became clear that the marijuana measure was moving ahead.
While the vote is months away, there are many who see Florida’s impending embrace of medical marijuana as an opportunity too good to miss. Quigley greeted about 150 of them at his conference in Orlando.
“We can’t teach you in one day how to run a cannabis industry business, but what we can do is bring the best information to you,” Quigley says.
There were seminars on cultivating the best strains, converting cannabis into oils and concentrates, and on marketing and legal issues.
Since California became the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, 21 other states have followed suit.
If Florida approves it, it will be the first state in the Southeast to do so. And with nearly 20 million residents, it will be the biggest market outside of California.
The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates medical marijuana will be a $785 million industry in Florida — one that Quigley says will have all kinds of economic opportunities.
“If you want to become a bud tender that works inside one of these dispensaries as an occupation, if you want to run your own business, there’s that opportunity as well,” Quigley says.
Right now in Florida, the cannabis industry is mostly talk. But money is lining up as well. Quigley is with ArcView, an investor’s group that funds cannabis industry startups.
Cannabis-RX, a real estate company based in Arizona, is also active here, investing in properties it plans to sell or lease to growers and operators of dispensaries.
“We look at light industrial commercial buildings that are in the right zoned areas of the cities,” says Llorn Kylo, CEO of Cannabis-RX. “And we usually seek between 10,000 and about 100,000 square feet.”
Along with real estate, Cannabis-RX also offers budding entrepreneurs financing and consulting services to help them get their businesses off the ground.
At the Orlando conference, Meg Sanders of Gaia, a grower with three dispensaries in Colorado, flew in from Denver. Sanders says she’s always looking for opportunities to expand — including in Florida.
“For us, we’ve worked very hard to create a fantastic template of what we do. And if there’s opportunity in other states, we’ll definitely be there at the table,” says Sanders.
Exactly what opportunities will arise in Florida are unclear. If the medical marijuana amendment passes, it will be another six months to a year before the state issues regulations.
Florida’s governor recently signed into law a very limited version of medical marijuana — one that allows production and sale only of a special strain that’s low in THC. As part of that law, just five nurseries will be allowed to grow it. They have to be large operations that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years.
Chris Rumph, a prospective entrepreneur at the conference, says that regulation has many wondering how welcoming Florida officials will be to the emerging cannabis industry.
“Opening up to nurseries that have been around 30 years, I think that’s kind of silly,” says Rumph. “We live in a state where we’ve got thousands of nurseries with people that are very educated and knowledgeable about plants and how to grow things effectively. So, there’s a little bit of suspicion there for me.”
How the medical marijuana regulations will be written, though, are for the future. For activists and entrepreneurs, the first task is mobilizing Florida voters to actually approve the medical marijuana amendment.
SANTA FE, N.M. — A proposed overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana program drew opposition Monday from patients and advocates who warned that new fees and other changes would make it harder for them to obtain the drug.
More than 200 people packed a hearing by the Health Department to comment on the revisions proposed by Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. Others wanting to attend had to initially wait outside a state building because the auditorium for the hearing was full.
“If your intent is to kill the New Mexico medical cannabis program, these proposed … rules will do just that,” said Vivian Moore, the executive director of a marijuana producer in Las Cruces.
One proposal by the department would require patients or their primary caregivers to pay a yearly $50 fee. It would be lowered to $25 for Medicaid patients.
Currently, it’s free for individuals to enroll in the medical marijuana program, which was enacted in 2007.
The state also proposes to halve the number of plants patients can grow themselves.
Mike Pell, a retired Army sergeant from Rio Rancho who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said in an interview that he grows his own marijuana because he can’t afford to spend $600 to $800 a month to buy it from a nonprofit producer.
Cutting the number of seedlings and mature plants allowed, from 16 to eight, would prevent him from having an adequate supply, he said.
“With the majority of these proposed rules, it’s going to price me totally out of the program and put me back on prescription medications that weren’t working,” said Pell.
Nonprofit producers, who supply most of the marijuana for the 11,000 New Mexico residents in the program, could triple their plants, but would have to pay higher fees.
Currently, a producer can grow 150 plants at a time and pay fees that vary according to how long they have been in business. The fees are $30,000 annually if they have been licensed for more than three years.
A producer would pay up to $90,000 a year to grow the maximum number of mature plants and seedlings under the proposed changes. The initial application fee for a producer would jump from $1,000 to $10,000.
The agency has said raising the plant limits for producers will help address supply problems patients have encountered. An extra dozen producers will also be licensed after the rules change, according to the department. There are currently 23 licensed marijuana producers.
The fee increases are to help pay for the department’s costs of administering the program.
Opponents said the proposed regulations will increase costs for producers and individuals, limiting access to marijuana.
“These proposed changes will send nearly every patient back to the black market … back to the pharmaceuticals, back to using cannabis illegally,” Moore said.
The state has issued about 3,500 licenses to patients to produce their own marijuana. The department proposes to require annual criminal background checks, and individuals must pay the costs.
“I am not a criminal,” objected William Hunter of Los Alamos, who grows some of his own marijuana.
The state also proposes new standards for testing marijuana to ensure it’s free of pesticides and other contaminants, but producers said the requirements aren’t workable.
Health Secretary Retta Ward will make the final decision on new rules, but there’s no deadline.
The New York State Legislature has just more than three days to approve a bill that would legalize medical marijuana across the state, before the legislative session ends on Thursday, June 19. If it doesn’t pass–and it hasn’t passed the last sixteen times it has been introduced–it will be back to the drawing board.
Activists who have pushed to pass the bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, remain stubbornly confident this will be the year–it is, after all, the furthest the bill has made it through the legislature since it was initially introduced in 1997. But Governor Andrew Cuomo is not bending over backwards to help move the legislation along. To the contrary, on Monday, Cuomo enumerated a laundry list of changes he wants to see implemented before he will support the bill to the Daily News.
A version of the bill would have to be filed Monday to be voted on by Thursday. (According to Senate rules, a bill must sit on senators’ desks for three days before it can come to a vote.)
Cuomo’s concerns include the acts of smoking itself (Cuomo wants it prohibited in favor of other means of ingesting the drug, like pills and vaporization) and the number of organizations who can operate dispensaries (the bill says 20, Cuomo wants just five).
Gabriel Sayegh, state director of New York for the Drug Policy Alliance, a group lobbying in favor of the bill, was dismayed the Governor chose to air his concerns to the newspaper at the eleventh hour after “his administration provided no input, despite repeated requests” earlier in the process.
With the clock running down on Monday, both Senator Diane Savino, the bill’s sponsor in the New York State Senate, and Cuomo were both guests on Syracuse public radio station WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, where they aired their respective grievances.
Savino pushed back against Cuomo’s characterization of the bill was cobbled together, not well-thought-out. “I, myself, have been working on this bill daily for the past two years, but Assemblyman Gottfried has been working developing a medical marijuana policy in New York State for close to 18 years,” Savino said. “So to portray the two of us as not being thoughtful, or not having thought through the components of this bill, is a bit disingenuous.”
Minutes later, Cuomo claimed on the same radio program that he “went first” by proposing a plan to legalize medical marijuana on a limited basis in his state of the state address in January. Despite his professed enthusiasm for legalization Cuomo insisted he would not support a bill that didn’t address all of his concerns. “I’m not going to be part of a system that is just going to wreak havoc.”
The bill presently sits before the Senate Rules Committee, headed by Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (who has historically opposed the bill). It is the last committee the bill must pass through before going to the floor for a vote.
TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) – Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law on Monday allowing for the limited use of a special strain of marijuana to treat epileptic seizures and other diseases.
State lawmakers passed the measure this spring with bipartisan support after impassioned appeals from parents seeking access to the form of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web,” named for a Colorado girl whose epileptic seizures have shown some response to the drug.
“As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer,” Scott, a Republican, said in a statement. “I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.”
The new law will severely limit marijuana sales, keeping them well below those in Colorado and Washington state, where recreational marijuana has been legalized.
The Florida law allows use of the drug for people suffering from epilepsy, cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Charlotte’s Web substance is not for smoking and is specially cultivated to be very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the element that gets users high.
Experts say it is of only limited medical use and will not help in the treatment of patients with cancer or ALS, or veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The law is not related to a more expansive medical marijuana referendum up for vote in November, with polls showing widespread support.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have some form of laws that permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, though they vary widely, according to a Florida legislative analysis.
(This story corrects paragraph four to Washington state instead of California)
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Eric Beech and Jim Loney)
Health Canada is rolling out new regulations that would require medical marijuana companies to provide information about their patients and the doctors who prescribe the drug to medical colleges.
The proposed amendments to the newly enacted “Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations” would allow provincial regulators, most of whom have been vocal in their opposition to members prescribing marijuana, “to more effectively monitor the practices of their members.”
Health Canada estimates the changes will come at a cost to the industry of nearly $3 million over the next decade.
The new rules would require licensed producers to provide information about doctors who authorize the use of medical marijuana including their names, addresses and licence numbers when requested by a provincial medical licensing body.
Companies would be compelled to provide patient information such as the quantity of dried marijuana prescribed, the period of use and basic patient information.
Unlike the physician information, the patient information would be provided to medical colleges on a regular basis: semi-annually.
Health Canada officials had previously been responsible for deciding who had legal access to medical marijuana. But the federal agency changed the system on April 1, and now a medical document (doctors shy from the word “prescription”) from a doctor is needed to get medical pot.
The new program is under intense scrutiny from regulatory colleges across the country, and physicians who authorize the use of marijuana are going to be screened far more closely than they have been. Medical colleges have the ability to revoke doctors’ licences.
The new rules would also allow for a transition period for colleges to retroactively request the information back to when the companies were registered and before the regulations were updated.
Another amendment would require licensed producers to keep records of the information provided to the licensing bodies.
Health Canada estimates the new rules will cost the fledgling industry some $423,461 per year due to additional paperwork, with costs decreasing over time. The agency calculated the data based on the assumption that 50 licenced producers will operate in the market, even though it has received more than 600 applications.
The agency has never said whether there will be be a cap on the number of entrants allowed into the market, nor why it chose the number 50 for its analysis. It has approved licences for some 20 companies already.
Until now, licensed producers were required to make the patient and doctor information available to Health Canada but not the colleges that oversee and investigate physicians’ conduct.
There will be a consultation period for the proposed amendments before they become law. Health Canada said it has had initial consultations with a select group of licensed producers who have indicated “they would regard this as a positive opportunity.”
The agency said existing provincial monitoring systems do not provide oversight for doctors and nurses who authorize medical marijuana.
“Despite the efforts that have been made, there is less information and fewer other resources about marihuana for medical purposes available to healthcare professionals than would typically be available for an approved prescription narcotic,” it said.
Health Canada has since doled out a handful of production licences and has received hundreds more applications from entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the industry, which the government believes could be worth $1.3 billion and grow from 40,000 to 400,000 users in the next decade.
OTTAWA – A medical marijuana group says the additional oversight measures proposed by the government this week are “redundant” and previous changes to the federal marijuana program already dramatically reduced its susceptibility to abuse.
Earlier this year, the feds introduced a major overhaul of the medical marijuana regime, eliminating licenses to grow one’s own.
Since the new system was rolled out April 1, Health Canada has received thousands of applications for medical marijuana production licenses. According to the Health Canada website, 13 licenses have been awarded to date.
Prior to the overhaul, Health Canada complained that licenses were abused, with growers exceeding their limits and selling the extra product outside the law.
Adam Greenblatt of the Montreal-based Medical Cannabis Access Society says taking away individuals’ right to grow their own has greatly diminished opportunities for abuse.
“I don’t see much room for abuse in the system,” he told QMI Agency in an interview Saturday. “You can’t get a license to grow your own so you can’t grow extra.”
Last week, Health Minister Rona Ambrose proposed amendments to the existing system that require licensed medical marijuana producers to regularly report to provincial regulatory authorities what doctors are prescribing how much marijuana and to whom.
Greenblatt doesn’t approve.
“It’s redundant because in Saskatchewan, Alberta, in Quebec there are already provisions at the provincial level that force the doctors to report that information,” he said. “And the effect on the patient is not good because this scares more physicians out of wanting to prescribe.”
Greenblatt says one solution is specialized medical marijuana clinics that understand how to navigate the increasingly complicated regulatory regime.
“Clinics that specialize in cannabis medicine across Canada, that can handle the complex administrative stuff that goes along with the new regulations.”
The proposed amendments are published in the Canada Gazette – the publication of proposed laws – and the period for public comment ends July 13.
Posted by CN Staff on June 13, 2014 at 08:58:34 PT
By Erica Orden
Source: Wall Street Journal
New York — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised doubts on Thursday about whether he would sign into law a medical marijuana bill advancing through the state Legislature.
The bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, was transferred out of the Senate Finance Committee over the previous objections of its chairman. That puts it within striking distance of a vote on the Senate floor, with the Legislature due to break for the year next Thursday.
The bill, which the Assembly passed earlier this year, would have New York joining its neighbors, New Jersey and Connecticut, in legalizing medical marijuana. It would create a growth and distribution system for the drug and allow health-care practitioners to prescribe it for cancer and other serious conditions.
In January, Mr. Cuomo introduced a more limited pilot program that doesn’t require legislative approval. On Thursday at an unrelated event in upstate Peekskill, the Democratic governor said he was concerned the Legislature’s effort could backfire.
“This sets up an entire system for marijuana growing, production, distribution, sales, and if you’re not careful and the system isn’t done well, this could actually turn into a major negative,” Mr. Cuomo said, calling marijuana a gateway drug for other illegal substances.
“We want to make it work,” he said. “But we also recognize the downside, which is if you don’t put in the correct system, you could have a serious problem on your hands.”
The medical marijuana issue is coming to the fore during an election year when lawmakers and Mr. Cuomo had been focusing instead on a series of anti-heroin measures, among a handful of issues expected to be in focus before lawmakers leave Albany.
The broader legalization effort gained steam after the governor’s idea to make pot available to the very ill was criticized by some advocates as too limited.
The governor envisions a distribution system confined to 20 hospitals statewide, a program that is dependent on federal approval, since without it hospitals could jeopardize their federal funding. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, even as states move to legalize it.
Advocates saw Mr. Cuomo’s idea as a step forward but have thrown their support behind the Senate bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island. She said she could address the governor’s concerns.
“I don’t disagree with anything he said, which is why we put a considerable amount of hours into the drafting of this to make sure any of those things don’t happen,” said Ms. Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, which shares power with Senate Republicans.
Marijuana as distributed under her bill, Ms. Savino pledged, “will be immune to diversion into the black market.”
The co-leaders of the Senate, Democratic Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein and Republican Sen. Dean Skelos, must both agree to bring the bill for a vote. Mr. Skelos hasn’t publicly committed to doing so. But Ms. Savino said a discussion “at the leadership level” allowed the bill to move to the Rules Committee, the powerful panel where Senate leaders decide what gets a floor vote. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican who had vowed to not let the bill move forward, didn’t return calls for comment.
If the bill moves through the Senate, it would become one of the few pieces of major legislation to reach the governor’s desk without his direct involvement. Mr. Cuomo has said he would sign the bill if it “makes sense.”
Ms. Savino said she met with the governor’s staff on Thursday and had “no major disagreements.”
Asked when she expected an agreement with the governor’s office to be finalized, which would result in a floor vote, Ms. Savino replied: “It’s like tomato sauce, you know? When it’s done, you just know.”
—Yoni Bashan contributed to this article.
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Author: Erica Orden
Published: June 12, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Posted by CN Staff on June 13, 2014 at 18:51:42 PT
By Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Source: Huffington Post
USA — As marijuana’s national popularity continues to grow and more states have legalized either medical or recreational use of it, a new federal survey shows that those shifting attitudes have not produced a surge in teen use.
The biennial High School Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the rate of marijuana use among U.S. high school students remained virtually unchanged from 2011 to 2013. It’s also about 3 percent less than the peak of teen marijuana use in 1999, when nearly 27 percent of teens said they had recently used marijuana, according to the CDC data.
In 2013, 23.4 percent of American high-school-aged teens used marijuana one or more times in the 30 days before the survey, the data show. That’s nearly even with 23.1 percent in 2011.
From 2011 to 2013, five more states — Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Hampshire — legalized marijuana for medical use. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legal medical cannabis programs. Also during that period, Colorado and Washington state became the first two states in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
The CDC’s findings are similar to those in a recent report published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which compared 20 years of CDC YRBS data about high school teens’ marijuana habits in states that have legalized medical marijuana compared with neighboring states that continue to ban the plant. It found that legalization of marijuana for medical purposes did not result in greater illicit use of the substance by high school students.
The YRBS data also showed that the rate of alcohol and cigarette use by U.S. teens has been steadily declining since 1991 when about 50 percent of high school students had at least one drink of alcohol and 27 percent had smoked a cigarette on at least one day during the 30 days before the survey.
Both cigarettes and alcohol are of course legal and regulated for adults, and Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert suggests this data may show that the legal regulation of marijuana could also help curb teen use.
“Rates of teen alcohol and cigarette use have dropped, and we didn’t have to arrest any adults for using them,” Tvert said. “We could see the same results by regulating marijuana. Regulation works.”
Unfortunately, the CDC survey did not report specific Colorado or Washington data in 2013, so a localized look at how recreational marijuana laws are affecting those state populations is not available.
Data was available for Colorado from 2009 to 2011, during a period of rapid medical marijuana dispensary expansion in the state, which ballooned to around 500 shops statewide. That data showed Colorado high school students’ marijuana use decreased by nearly 3 percent.
Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Published: June 13, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Colorado — More than a decade after voters here first said marijuana could be medicine, Colorado is preparing to embark on the largest state-funded effort to study the medical benefits of cannabis.
Under a bill signed this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the state health department will give out about $9 million in grantsin the next five years to researchers for marijuana studies. Most importantly, the research is expected to include clinical trials on the kinds of marijuana products actually being used in Colorado — something that federally funded studies on marijuana have lacked.
“Our intent is to be rigorous scientifically, but to also act with some expediency because these are products that a large percentage of our population is using today,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director and chief medical officer of the health department. “We want to make sure that what’s happening out there in everyday practice isn’t harming people.”
Nearly 20 years after California became the first state in the U.S. to pass a medical marijuana law, the research on marijuana’s health effects is still largely polarized.
Several studies — matching the anecdotal experiences of medical marijuana patients — have found cannabis or its isolated components can be effective in managing pain, tremors, nausea, inflammation and other conditions.
Other studies, though, have taken a dimmer view of marijuana, summed up by a new National Institute on Drug Abuse review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that concludes marijuana is bad for brain development and can lead to addiction. Although the review says marijuana may have therapeutic potential, it finds the evidence less than convincing.
Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/F1O7Memv
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Washington, D.C. — The Drug Enforcement Administration has been impeding and ignoring the science on marijuana and other drugs for more than four decades, according to a report released this week by the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a marijuana research organization.
“The DEA is a police and propaganda agency,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Wednesday. “It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice.”
The report alleges that the DEA has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana. The drug is currently classified as Schedule I, which the DEA reserves for the “most dangerous” drugs with “no currently accepted medical use.” Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions — in 1973, 1995 and again in 2002 — the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of the cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.
The report criticizes the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also criticizes the agency for creating a “regulatory Catch-22” by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.
A spokesperson at the DEA declined to comment on the report.
The feds have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance, but that trend appears to be changing.
According to The Hill, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has conducted about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana. NIDA oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana grown for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. — a process through which the only federally sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.
The joint report comes less than two weeks after the House approved three amendments taking aim at the DEA and its ability to enforce federal marijuana and hemp laws in states which have legal marijuana operations and industrial hemp programs. The medical marijuana amendment was sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
“Nobody should be afraid of the truth,” Rohrabacher said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of other drugs that have harmful side effects. Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven.”
The federal government’s interest in marijuana certainly appears to be growing. Since 2003, it has approved more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. In 2003, 22 grants totaling $6 million were approved for cannabis research. In 2012, that number had risen to 69 approved grants totaling more than $30 million.
“The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurably suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana,” Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said in a statement. “The DEA’s obstruction of the FDA approval process for marijuana has — to the DEA’s dismay — unintentionally catalyzed state-level medical marijuana reforms.”
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have legalized CBD oils, made from a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.
A number of recent studies have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use also has been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.
Nadelmann said the DEA has “demonstrated a regular pattern of abusing its discretionary powers.”
“We believe this authority would be better handled by another government agency in the health realm, or even better still, by an organization that is truly independent, perhaps something that involves the National Academy of Sciences,” he said. “We will be working to encourage greater congressional oversight and also to call for reforms of federal law.”
Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Published: June 11, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Pennsylvania — During the past 32 years, stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld said he has smoked 130,000 marijuana cigarettes – with the federal government’s blessing.
Rosenfeld, 61, continues to get a monthly supply of 300 pre-rolled joints in a silver canister from a government-authorized farm in Mississippi to help treat a rare bone-tumor disorder. This, despite the drug’s classification by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a top-tier hazardous substance with no medicinal value.
“I’m living proof of the hypocrisy of the federal government,” Rosenfeld said Tuesday at a hearing before the Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee, which is considering a bill to legalize medical marijuana. If the bill is fast-tracked – some senators said they want it released to the floor by the end of the month – Pennsylvania would vie with several other states to become the 23d to allow cannabis to be sold for medical purposes.
New Jersey has had a stumbling marijuana program since 2010 and Delaware is in the process of implementing one. Florida is among several states where voters will be asked to decide the issue in ballot initiatives this year.
Rosenfeld, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is one of two federal medical marijuana patients nationwide.
“All the bad things the federal government says about marijuana are lies,” said Rosenfeld, who was approved for the Compassionate Investigative New Drug program in 1982 and then was grandfathered into receiving a continuing supply when it was shut down a decade later during the government’s war on drugs.
He brought a canister filled with the joints to the hearing to illustrate his point.
Rosenfeld, said he has never gotten high from the marijuana and believes his body consumes it as a muscle relaxant, pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent.
Diagnosed when he was 10 with a genetic condition in which painful bone tumors multiply throughout his body, Rosenfeld said his first doctors had warned he might not live past his teenage years. He underwent several surgeries to remove the tumors and was prescribed Dilaudid and various other narcotics that he worried could be addicting.
While experimenting with cannabis during his college years, he accidentally discovered he was able to sit for longer periods without pain and his tumors were decreasing in number.
“It’s amazing how well it works,” said Rosenfeld, in a phone interview. He said that he has undergone various tests and his lungs and brain have not shown any signs of being compromised by the drug.
Musikka Elvy, who lives in Oregon, is the other federal cannabis patient. She uses it to treat glaucoma.
Rosenfeld said that the marijuana he and Elvy receive is grown at a government farm at the University of Mississippi.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Author: Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published: June 10, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
USA — What is the difference between hemp and marijuana? The short answer: semantics. The long answer: the difference is a largely misunderstood distinction that now has two correct answers, a legal one and a scientific one. And like all things proven by scientists, it is somehow up for public and political debate.
Thanks to nearly 80 years of federal cannabis prohibition, public knowledge on the topic is limited to rumors and misinterpretations perpetuated online—everything from “hemp plants are male and marijuana plants are female” to “one is a drug and the other is not.”
The legal definitions also have muddied the water as legislators have passed laws at both the federal and state levels defining hemp in the pursuit of both fiber and medicine.
So what exactly is the difference between marijuana and hemp? Let’s start with semantics.
Hemp refers to strains of Cannabis sativa that have been bred specifically for fiber used for clothing and construction, oils and topical ointments, nutritional benefits and a wide and growing variety of other purposes that don’t involve intoxication.
Marijuana is a slang term used to describe strains of Cannabis sativa specifically bred for the potent resinous glands (trichomes) that grow on the flowers and some leaves (buds). While there is some dispute over the origins of the term “marijuana,” it was introduced into popular use by Hearst-era newspapers as a way to instill fear of pot-smoking Mexicans.
Wording aside, both hemp and marijuana are, in fact, the same thing. Although both “hemp” and “marijuana” as we know them are from the same genus, Cannabis, they are also part of the same species, Cannabis sativa. The scientific difference between what we refer to as hemp and marijuana comes from the purpose the strain was bred for.
“The [legal] definition of hemp is a plant that has low THC and perhaps has a higher level of CBD,” says publisher and marijuana cultivation guru Ed Rosenthal. Rosenthal is the author of the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, which was first published in 1984.
“They are different varieties of the same species,” Rosenthal continues. “A hemp plant grown for seed isn’t necessarily the best fiber plant.”
A 1976 study by Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist published by the International Association of Plant Taxonomy, “A Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis” concludes that both hemp varieties and marijuana varieties are of the same genus,Cannabis, and the same species Cannabis sativa. Further, there are countless varieties that fall into further classifications within the species Cannabis sativa.
There are three known subspecies among these varieties of Cannabis sativa: C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis. In this case the distinctions largely lie in the latitude at which the subspecies evolved, which in turn contributes to a plant’s physical characteristics and effects, to some extent.
As the cannabis plant was bred alongside the growth and collective knowledge of humans, it took on a variety of purposes. Strains of cannabis used for their potent medicine and intoxicating qualities have further evolved due to prohibition; over the last 50 years, growers have largely moved their operations indoors, fueling the innovation inherent in having the power to manipulate the atmospheric conditions of a gardening space. Today’s cannabis flowers are far more potent and perhaps a higher quality than much of the buds we have used throughout history as either medicine or entheogen.
And here is where legal definitions and science intersect.
The female cannabis plant grows glands on the leaves of its flowers that contain at least 60 identified and active cannabinoids (among other beneficial compounds) that have a plethora of medical uses. Scientific testing and identification of cannabinoids and other compounds found in cannabis has generated two outcomes: a better understanding of the plant by scientists and researchers, and a slough of misinterpreted information used to set legal parameters to safe access to the cannabis plant.
Specifically, this year’s state-level legislative sessions have been abuzz even in the most conservative of states with hemp-related legislation, thanks in part to the passage of the Farm Bill, which included an industrial hemp cultivation amendment that has opened the doors (though not quite the floodgates) to the crop rejoining America’s agricultural landscape.
The result is a confusing state-by-state legal redefinition of hemp from marijuana based on higher levels of the non-psychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) and the infamously intoxicating ∆-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“The international definition of hemp as opposed to marijuana was developed by a Canadian researcher in 1971,” says Dana Larsen, author of The Illustrated History of Cannabis in Canada, which will be published later this year. “That was the year that Canadian scientist Ernest Small published a little-known but very influential book called The Species Problem in Cannabis.”
Larsen said Small acknowledged there was not any natural point at which the cannabinoid content could be used to distinguish strains of hemp and marijuana, but despite this he “drew an arbitrary line on the continuum of cannabis types, and decided that 0.3 percent THC in a sifted batch of cannabis flowers was the difference between hemp and marijuana.”
“Small’s arbitrary 0.3 percent THC limit has become standard around the world as the official limit for legal hemp,” Larsen continues. “Small clearly noted that among the hundreds of strains he experimented with, ‘plants cultivated for fibre [sic], oil and birdseed frequently had moderate or high amounts of THC’… thus the worldwide 0.3 percent THC standard divider between marijuana and hemp is not based on which strains have the most agricultural benefit, nor is it based on an analysis of the THC level required for psychoactivity. It’s based on an arbitrary decision of a Canadian scientist growing cannabis in Ottawa.”
“Surely no member of the vegetable kingdom has ever been more misunderstood than hemp,” says David P. West in a report for the North American Industrial Hemp Council in 1998. “And nowhere have emotions run hotter than the debate over the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana.”
West’s report goes on to debunk many of the pervasive myths surrounding the definitions of the two words and the ramifications of their legal interpretations. The study highlights the reality that although the plants are scientifically the same, varieties are bred for all sorts of purposes, therefore the legalization of hemp strains is not necessarily a defacto legalization of marijuana strains, and they have notable differences.
Nonetheless, Ernest Small’s interpretations of cannabinoid content in strains as a distinguishing factor toward the semantic differences of the plant were eventually written into law when the United States legalized (sort of) the domestic sale of foreign cultivated hemp products for cosmetics, clothing and nutrition.
In 2001, the Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to ban all products sourced from hemp, but lost this battle in the courts. Instead, it clarified that any product containing THC is illegal for sale in the United States, excluding hemp products with no levels of THC. The ruling is credited for allowing more imported hemp products into the legal U.S. marketplace.
“Canada, for example, defines hemp as products of strains of cannabis which produce less than 0.3 percent THC, while many European countries set the THC limit at 0.2 percent,” says Jeremy Daw, author of Weed the People: From Founding Fiber to Forbidden Fruit. “That may seem like a minor difference, but compare to the definition of marijuana in the United States, which (contrary to popular belief) does not use a THC limit at all.”
Daw says U.S. law, according to the most authoritative court decision on the question, Hemp Industries Association v. DEA, defines marijuana as all parts of any Cannabis sativa L. plant, except for defined exceptions, which could be assumed to be what the United States government defines as “hemp.”
“Such exceptions include fibers from cannabis stalks and products derived from sterilized cannabis seeds, but explicitly do not include resins extracted from any variety of cannabis plant,” Daw continues. “Popular misreadings of this part of the court case has led to even more confusion about the difference between hemp and marijuana.”
As we enter the age of legal cannabis, distinctions, be they semantic, legal or scientific, are going to be paramount in creating responsible laws for the legal industry. To simplify, it is all the cannabis plant. Cannabis has so many uses and potential uses that humans have largely played a role in its evolution and probably will continue to into the future. Whether or not legal distinctions and semantics will follow science, so far, is anyone’s guess.
Angela Bacca is the editor of Cannabis Now Magazine. Her work has appeared in AlterNet, Cannabis Culture, SFCritic Music Blog, Skunk Magazine, West Coast Cannabis and Opposing Views, among others.
Source: AlterNet (US)
Author: Angela Baca, AlterNet
Published: June 5, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Independent Media Institute
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2014 at 06:48:53 PT
By Keith Coffman
Reuters — Colorado’s governor signed into law on Friday a measure to create the nation’s first state-run marijuana financial cooperative, potentially giving newly legalized cannabis vendors access to banking services through the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The bill signed by Governor John Hickenlooper permits the creation of so-called “cannabis co-ops” – similar to credit unions without deposit insurance – which will be governed by the state’s financial services commissioner.
Voters in Colorado and Washington state passed ballot measures in 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults.
The first recreational pot stores opened in Colorado in January, and Washington is set to follow suit this year. Both states are among the nearly two dozen and the District of Columbia which allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
But traditional banks have been unwilling to provide services to medical and recreational marijuana businesses because cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
Supporters of the Colorado legislation say the cash-only nature of the industry limits owners’ access to capital, makes it difficult for the state to track revenue for tax-collecting purposes, and makes the stores targets for criminals.
To get access to key banking services such as credit card transactions and checking accounts, the Federal Reserve would need to grant permission.
Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association, said the Colorado law does not solve the banking problem because it is unlikely the Fed would sign off the proposal.
“The ultimate solution to banking lies with the United States Congress,” he said. “We continue to urge Congress to address banking … This is no longer an issue about marijuana, but about safety, transparency, and accountability.”
Denver police underscored the safety issue this week when they sent out an alert saying investigators had received credible intelligence about a plot to rob marijuana business couriers in and around the city.
“All marijuana businesses should be alert and aware of their surroundings as they conduct their business,” the alert said.
Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Author: Keith Coffman
Published: June 6, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Thomson Reuters
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Colorado — The state attorney general’s office says Coloradans do not have a right to use marijuana off the job, siding with a satellite television company in its firing of a medical-marijuana patient.
In a brief filed with the state Supreme Court last month, the Colorado attorney general’s office argues that giving workers a right to use marijuana off duty “would have a profound and detrimental impact on employers in the state.”
“Contrary to popular perception, Colorado has not simply legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes,” state attorneys write in the brief. “Instead, its citizens have adopted narrowly drawn constitutional amendments that decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.”
The Colorado Court of Appeals — the state’s second-highest court — last year upheld Dish Network’s firing of a quadriplegic medical-marijuana patient for a positive drug test. Although there is no allegation that Brandon Coats was stoned at work, the company said it has a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana.
Coats say his off-the-job marijuana use should be protected by Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which prevents companies from firing employees for doing things outside of work — like smoking cigarettes — that are legal. Dish Network argues that marijuana use can’t be considered lawful while cannabis remains illegal federally.
In its brief supporting Dish Network, the state attorney general’s office says zero-tolerance policies ensure that employees are able to perform their jobs competently. Requiring employers to prove that workers are stoned on the job before they can be fired would require companies to conduct “intrusive investigations into the personal life of an employee.”
Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/arP3juhs
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
Washington, D.C. — The federal government has put the state of Georgia on formal notice that it can’t make poor people take drug tests when they apply for food stamps.
In April, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a law requiring the state to test any food stamp applicants suspected of being on drugs starting in 2016. The U.S. Department of Agriculture told the Georgia Department of Human Services on Tuesday that states can’t make up new eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, so drug tests are a no-no.
“Requiring SNAP applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits would constitute an additional condition of eligibility, and therefore, is not allowable under law,” regional USDA administrator Robin Bailey said in the letter.
Last year, Republicans in Congress tried but failed to give states the power to screen SNAP applicants. Drug test proposals for all manner of safety net programs have been popular with Republicans in recent years despite a dearth of evidence that welfare users are drug abusers.
Some forms of drug testing are allowed for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which, like food stamps, is a federal program administered by states. But overly broad proposals, like one in Florida, have been rejected by the courts.
In 2012, Georgia lawmakers approved a TANF drug-testing law modeled on Florida’s, but it was never implemented because of constitutional concerns.
Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Arthur Delaney, The Huffington Post
Published: June 3, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives
USA — Richard Nixon was in the White House, his “war on drugs” was in full swing, yet Big Tobacco was secretly exploring the possibility of becoming Big Pot. Newly discovered documents from tobacco company archives at UC San Francisco show that major companies in the cigarette industry investigated joining the marijuana business in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The companies were driven then by the same shift in public attitudes that is now pushing legalization around the country. One company even asked a federal counter-narcotics official to secretly secure marijuana from the government for research.
“We request that there be no publicity whatsoever,” a Philip Morris vice president wrote in late 1969 to Milton Joffee, drug sciences chief at the Justice Department’s narcotics bureau. “We will provide the results to you on a confidential basis, and request that you not identify in the form of any public announcement where the work has been done.”
Joffee responded that Philip Morris could skip Food and Drug Administration review of its application for government pot. “I do not feel there is any bar to maintaining the confidentiality you request,” he wrote.
The documents, discovered by public health researchers, were disclosed Tuesday in the Milbank Quarterly, a health policy journal. They not only shed new light on the Nixon era, but appear when some Wall Street analysts and health advocates say tobacco companies may again be considering the expanding market for legalized weed.
“The issues the tobacco companies were exploring are all still there today,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. “The only thing they were wrong on is they thought legalization would happen a lot sooner.”
Legalization seemed in the air in the 1970s, though Nixon staunchly opposed it. He ignored a presidential commission’s recommendation in 1972 to decriminalize possession for personal use.
But 11 states would do just that between 1973 and 1977. Jimmy Carter was elected to the White House in 1976 on a platform that included marijuana decriminalization. Views shifted dramatically in the 1980s, however, and President Reagan oversaw a harsh crackdown that included imprisonment for thousands of nonviolent offenders.
The tobacco companies say the newly unearthed documents are no longer relevant.
“Our companies have no plans to sell marijuana-based products,” said David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris. “We don’t do anything related to marijuana at all.”
Company denials were also emphatic in 1971 when Joseph Cullman, chairman of the board at Philip Morris, declared that marijuana was nowhere on its corporate radar. A handwritten note from the company president at the time, George Weissman, suggests otherwise.
The Philip Morris marijuana collaboration with the Justice Department, he wrote, was meant to explore “potential competition” and “a potential product.”
Another Philip Morris memo, this one unsigned, laid out to executives the rationale for the marijuana research.
“We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pickup for people who are bored or depressed,” it said. “The only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs.”
Company officials say they do not know what ultimately came of the project. Nor do staff at the Justice Department or National Institute for Drug Abuse. No files could be found at the National Archives.
But the project clearly rattled other tobacco firms.
An internal memo from an executive at the American Tobacco Co. reported that his team had learned from a “reliable source” that Philip Morris “was granted a special permit to grow, cultivate and make marijuana extracts … and that Philip Morris urged the State agency people to secrecy.”
Over at British American Tobacco, the world’s second-largest tobacco firm, documents show that a confidential research effort labeled the “Pot Project” was launched in Britain.
The firm’s head science advisor, Charles Ellis, also drafted a detailed research plan to position British American Tobacco to produce “cannabis-loaded cigarettes.”
Cigarettes mixed with marijuana, Ellis wrote in the 1970 document, were a “natural expansion of current smoking habits” and if pot became legal, such cigarettes would be “a change in habit much like moving to cigars.”
He suggested that the firm “learn how to produce in quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag.”
It is unclear if any of the research was ever carried out.
“The 1970s were a long time ago,” British American Tobacco said in statement. “Today, we have no interest whatsoever in participating in the marijuana market.”
Big Tobacco’s attraction to pot appeared to drop off in the 1980s. But the companies were intrigued again by the early 1990s, documents show, when R.J. Reynolds launched into research on the chemistry of marijuana.
The project was triggered by reports — later proved false — that a French competitor was manufacturing marijuana-laden smokes. An R.J. Reynolds executive also explained in an internal memo that the company needed to better acquaint itself with marijuana “in view of the possibility of its future more frequent use in certain European countries.”
“I cannot begin to speculate on the thinking of management more than 20 years ago,” said David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. “Regarding the current cannabis market, we are not pondering any expansion or involvement in that market, nor do we conduct any research into marijuana.”
Anti-smoking activists are skeptical. And some investors are betting that their suspicions are well-founded.
“The tobacco companies may deny even thinking about it, but they have to think about it,” said Gerry Sullivan, portfolio manager of the Vice Fund, a $300-million mutual fund made up of alcohol, tobacco, gambling and defense company stocks.
“It is an opportunity to diversify their business and help benefit shareholders,” Sullivan said. “That is what management is most likely pursuing in the dark corners of some research lab in Virginia.”
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Evan Halper
Published: June 2, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Los Angeles Times
CannabisNews — Cannabis Archives
Washington, D.C. — They won a historic vote in the House last week on relaxing federal marijuana policy, but backers said it’s too early to declare victory, acknowledging that it will be a tough fight to get something through the Senate and on to President Obama this year.
Still, the vote, which approved language blocking the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws, was stunning. It marked the first time either chamber of Congress has approved a stand-down measure on the marijuana issue, and the 219-189 tally wasn’t even close.
“This demonstrated something more than just the medical marijuana issue,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who led the fight for the policy change. “It showed where you can actually have a coalition on specific issues that can’t move forward with just one party, but there can be a coalition that can carry things through when it’s based on some kind of a more libertarian premise.”
The fight came as part of the annual debate on the spending bill that funds the Justice Department.
Mr. Rohrabacher’s amendment stops all funding for the federal government to interfere in medical marijuana policies in the District of Columbia and the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
It does not change federal policy on recreational marijuana use, even in Colorado and Washington, where voters have approved use of the drug for recreational purposes.
Despite overwhelming House passage, it’s doubtful the bill will clear the Senate, backers said.
Neither Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski nor Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate spending committee, have been approached about attaching a similar provision to their version of the bill, and Mr. Shelby has signaled he opposes the idea.
“Sen. Shelby opposes legalizing marijuana, and would therefore oppose such a provision. However, he has not been approached about including anything related in the Senate’s version,” said Jonathan Graffeo, spokesman for Mr. Shelby.
Mr. Rohrabacher conceded it will likely take another year or so for the House’s momentum to carry over to the upper chamber.
“What happened was a historic breakthrough but it won’t be totally successful this Congress, but it puts us on a path to be successful in the next Congress,” he said.
Friday morning’s vote saw 49 Republicans join with 170 Democrats in backing the policy change for medical marijuana.
Only two years ago, a similar amendment garnered little more than 160 votes in support. The leap of nearly five dozen extra votes signals just how quickly the politics of pot are changing.
Still, Mr. Rohrabacher said there should have been even more Republicans in support, if only out of fealty to the principles of federalism.
The House also approved other amendments that would prevent the federal government from hindering states that want to allow industrial hemp production. While industrial hemp contains almost none of the active ingredient that makes marijuana so potent, the plants look similar and some authorities have feared the industrial plant could be used to cover for marijuana plants.
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Author: S.A. Miller and Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times
Published: June 1, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Washington Times, LLC
CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives