Archive for the ‘Highlighted’ category

Marijuana Has Come A Long Way Since Last 4/20

April 20th, 2014

What a difference a year makes. From 4/20, 2013, to 4/20, 2014, marijuana has taken big steps out of the shadows of the black market and into the light of the mainstream — from record high popular support and the first legal recreational sales, to an entire country legalizing marijuana.

Here’s a look at the last 12 months of marijuana milestones:

Colorado Sold Legal, Recreational Marijuana For The First Time

The first month of legal sales generated $14 million. Those millions were brought in by only 59 marijuana businesses that were able to get through the application process, and represent just a fraction of the approximately 550 outlets in the state eligible for retail licenses.

Now, as the fourth month of sales winds to a close, Denver has still not descended into the crime-filled hellscape that some members of law enforcement predicted. In fact, overall crime in Mile High City appears to be down since legal pot sales began.

And as time passes, more Coloradan voters are happy with legalization. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling showed that 57 percent of Colorado voters now approve of marijuana legalization, while 35 percent disapprove. Amendment 64, the measure that legalized recreational marijuana in the state, passed by only a 10-point margin.

The Promise Of Medical Marijuana Continued To Grow

“Charlotte’s Web” isn’t just a classic children’s story. It’s also the name of a coveted medical marijuana strain used to treat children with epilepsy.

Over the last year, hundreds of families uprooted themselves and moved to Colorado to take advantage of the state’s expansive medical marijuana laws, and in search of Charlotte’s Web — a strain of pot high in CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient, and low in THC, which causes users to feel “high.” The strain was developed by the Colorado Springs-based Realm of Caring nonprofit.

The pot strain is named after 7-year-old Charlotte Figi, who used to have hundreds of seizures each week. Charlotte now controls 99 percent of seizures with her medical marijuana treatment, according to her mother Paige.

Also this year, the Food and Drug Administration moved forward with an orphan drug designation for a cannabis-based drug called Epidiolex to fight severe forms of childhood epilepsy. The Epidiolex maker still must demonstrate efficacy of the drug in clinical trials to win FDA approval to market the medicine, but the orphan drug designation represents a tremendous step for cannabis-based medicine.

The federal government signed off on a study using medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, another sign of shifting federal policy.

Study after study demonstrated the promise of medical marijuana since last 4/20. Purified forms of cannabis were shown to be effective at attacking some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control, and to slowing the spread of HIV. The legalization of the plant for medical purposes may lead to lower suicide rates.

The Return Of Hemp

A flag made of hemp flying over the U.S. Capitol in July may have been a sign that hemp was going to have a banner year.

Just months later in Colorado, farmer Ryan Loflin planted 55 acres of hemp — the first legal hemp crop planted in the U.S. in nearly 60 years.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 bills related to hemp have been introduced in more than half of U.S. states. That’s more than triple the number of hemp bills introduced during the same period last year, and nearly double the number 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.

Support For Pot Surges

An October Gallup poll showed for the first time that a clear majority of Americans want to see marijuana legalized. Gallup noted that when the question was first asked in 1969, only 12 percent of Americans favored legalization.

Americans also want an end to the long-running war on drugs. A recent survey from Pew found that 67 percent of Americans say that government should provide treatment for people who use illegal drugs. Only 26 percent thought the government should be prosecuting drug users.

Americans regard marijuana as relatively benign. In that same Pew poll, 69 percent of Americans felt that alcohol is a bigger danger to a person’s health than marijuana, and 63 percent said alcohol is a bigger danger to society than marijuana.

Of all the vices a person can indulge in, Americans told NBC News/The Wall Street Journal that marijuana may be the most benign substance — less harmful than sugar.

More States Approved Progressive Pot Laws

While the title of third state to legalize marijuana is still up for grabs, lawmakers around U.S. the have been scaling back harsh anti-weed laws. Maryland recently became the latest state to officially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Washington, D.C., awaits congressional approval of a similar measure. New Hampshire appeared poised to pass a similar law, but it was recently rejected by state lawmakers. Other states, including Illinois, are considering legislation to decriminalize low-level possession.

Medical marijuana has also made some strides since last year’s 4/20. Maryland this month became the 21st state to legalize marijuana for medical use. A new trend has appeared in conservative and Deep South states, as bills to legalize medicine derived from marijuana have found surprising support in places like Alabama, where a measure was signed into law this year.

Uruguay Makes History

At the end of 2013, Uruguay became the world’s first country to legalize a national marketplace for marijuana. Citing frustrations over failed attempts to stem the drug trade, President Jose Mujica signed a law handing the government responsibility for overseeing the new industry.

The move drew some derision from the international community, including the United Nations, but also applause. Mujica was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his work legalizing the plant.

In an effort to undercut the black market, the Uruguay government has set the starting price around $1 a gram. Legal weed in the U.S., including at legal pot shops in Colorado, can cost around $20 for the same amount. There are also limits on the amount residents can buy or grow. But with marijuana already accessible in Uruguay before legalization, many pot reformers have hailed the move as an alternative to prohibition that will ultimately give the government more avenues to help protect public health and safety.

Obama Says Pot Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol

The president was an admitted pot user in his youth. And while he now regards his experiences as foolish, he revealed earlier this year that he didn’t believe his behavior was particularly dangerous.

“I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” President Barack Obama told The New Yorker’s David Remnick in a January interview.

The president said that would discourage people from using it, but his comments led to a much bigger question: If marijuana is as dangerous as alcohol, why does Obama’s administration insist that it is rightfully considered an illegal Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD? The irony of this wasn’t lost on Congress. A month after the interview, a group of representatives a called on Obama to drop pot from Schedule I. The administration has resisted the request.

Eric Holder Is ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Legal Weed

Some of the biggest advances in pot policy over the last year have come thanks to action — or perhaps inaction — by the Justice Department. Last August, it decided that it would allow legalization laws in Colorado and Washington proceed. And this month, Attorney General Eric Holder told The Huffington Post that he was cautiously optimistic about how those state laws were proceeding.

Holder has said the Justice Department would be happy to work with Congress to reschedule marijuana and has been clear that the administration won’t push the issue without action from lawmakers.

No matter how hard you try, time always wins.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner and Nick Wing, The Huffington Post
Published: April 20, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: scoop@huffingtonpost.com
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Study Finds Signs of Brain Changes in Pot Smokers

April 18th, 2014

A small study of casual marijuana smokers has turned up evidence of changes in the brain, a possible sign of trouble ahead, researchers say. The young adults who volunteered for the study were not dependent on pot, nor did they show any marijuana-related problems.

“What we think we are seeing here is a very early indication of what becomes a problem later on with prolonged use,” things like lack of focus and impaired judgment, said Dr. Hans Breiter, a study author.

Longer-term studies will be needed to see if such brain changes cause any symptoms over time, said Breiter, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Previous studies have shown mixed results in looking for brain changes from marijuana use, perhaps because of differences in the techniques used, he and others noted in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of Neurosciences.

The study is among the first to focus on possible brain effects in recreational pot smokers, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The federal agency helped pay for the work. She called the work important but preliminary.

The 20 pot users in the study, ages 18 to 25, said they smoked marijuana an average of about four days a week, for an average total of about 11 joints. Half of them smoked fewer than six joints a week. Researchers scanned their brains and compared the results to those of 20 non-users who were matched for age, sex and other traits.

The results showed differences in two brain areas associated with emotion and motivation — the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. Users showed higher density than non-users, as well as differences in shape of those areas. Both differences were more pronounced in those who reported smoking more marijuana.

Volkow said larger studies are needed to explore whether casual to moderate marijuana use really does cause anatomical brain changes, and if so, whether that leads to any impairment.

The current work doesn’t determine whether casual to moderate marijuana use is harmful to the brain, she said.

Murat Yucel of Monash University in Australia, who has studied the brains of marijuana users but didn’t participate in the new study, said in an email that the new results suggest “the effects of marijuana can occur much earlier than previously thought.” Some of the effect may depend on a person’s age when marijuana use starts, he said.

Another brain researcher, Krista Lisdahl of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said her own work has found similar results. “I think the clear message is we see brain alterations before you develop dependence,” she said.

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press
Published: April 16, 2014
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press

Are Baby Boomers Ready To Give MJ a Second Chance?

April 15th, 2014

Are aging baby boomers ready to rekindle a long-ago love affair with marijuana? That is a weighty question for cultural anthropologists and cool-eyed business analysts alike as the once celebrated, later maligned, but explicitly contraband cannabis plant goes legit — for the first time in nearly 80 years — in a new era of medical and recreational use.

For many who smoked marijuana in their dorms in the ’60s and ’70s, it was an act of rebellion, a communal experience, and maybe a political statement. Today’s product is more likely to be marketed as anti-inflammatory than anti-establishment. And, to the distinct discomfort of some, it may come in a neat corporate package rather than an illicit nickel bag.

“I remember the smoke-filled theaters of our college years,” said Kathryn Maynes, 57, a Beacon Hill boomer who works for a real estate development firm. “There was the obligatory ‘Reefer Madness’ (film) on the screen and people blowing weed. It was very sociable. You didn’t just light up and have a joint to yourself. It was inclusive, it was friendly.”

Maynes, however, gave up marijuana in her 20s and never returned, partly because it left her with feelings of anxiety.

“If it were legalized tomorrow for recreational use, I would think twice about it,” Maynes said. “If I did it, it would only be with people I really trust.”

In fact, 20 states, including Massachusetts, already have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, while Colorado and Washington state have made recreational marijuana legal. Fully three quarters of Americans have told pollsters that they now see legalization for recreational use as inevitable, according to Martin A. Lee, director of Project CBD, a medical marijuana information service, and author of “Smoke Signals,” a social history of marijuana.

“On a cultural level, the debate is virtually over,” said Lee. “It’s widely recognized that marijuana has health benefits. For baby boomers who got high in the ’60s and ’70s, their experience was largely benign. And now it’s becoming mainstream. It’s not just long-haired rebels and stoners. It’s Mom and Dad, Republicans and Democrats, a real slice of America.”

Marijuana’s use for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient China. In the United States, it was used in a variety of treatments from the 1850s to the 1930s when, after getting snared in the Prohibition-era dragnet, it was made illegal.

The plant was formally removed from the US Dispensatory, a compendium of medicines, in 1942. But after a resurgence among hippies and college students in the 1960s, it emerged as a popular, though illegal, treatment in the 1980s for AIDS patients who found it could dull pain, stimulate appetite, and relieve nausea. That inspired a campaign to legalize or decriminalize medical marijuana in California and other states.

Since then, “it’s sort of been a U-turn back to the time when marijuana was widely used in medicine,” Lee said. The momentum was aided by a rediscovery of strains containing cannabidiol, called CBD, a marijuana component with low levels of the psychoactive agent THC. That has made it more appealing as a therapy for treating diseases ranging from cancer and Alzheimer’s to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, alcoholism, psychosis, and depression.

Studies project the growth of a $10 billion legal marijuana industry by 2018, and entrepreneurs and investors are scrambling to capitalize. In addition to growers and sellers, support services and enabling technologies have been cropping up in the emerging niche.

“We’ve developed two products that can help the baby boom generation adapt to all of the choices out there,” said David Goldstein, communications director for Potbotics, a Palo Alto, Calif., startup. “A lot of them feel overwhelmed by the consumer buying process.”

Later this year, Potbotics plans to launch BrainBot, a high-frequency monitoring system that can be used in doctors’ offices to evaluate the brain’s reaction to marijuana and recommend which strains might reduce anxiety or eliminate insomnia for specific patients. The company also plans to roll out PotBot, a recommendation engine in the form of an avatar that can suggest marijuana options for medical and recreational uses.

“You don’t need a doctor to talk to the avatar,” Goldstein said, suggesting an older generation may see a “paradigm shift” in how marijuana is viewed in popular culture.

“In the past, baby boomers used marijuana for the same reason they didn’t want their kids to use it. They were abusing the substance. But with the end of prohibition, everything’s been going in a good direction,” Goldstein said. “We’re giving jobs to taxpaying Americans rather than the black market or Mexican cartels.”

Younger generations may have fewer qualms about the emerging marijuana business.

Justin Desjardins, a 35-year-old Worcester man who works for a renewable energy firm, said his high school basketball career was ended when he was caught with marijuana, which he considered a victimless crime. More recently, after he injured his leg playing football at a family gathering, he said he has used it medically to help him cope with arthritis.

“I always thought that you should just make it legal,” Desjardins said. “People are finding out it’s somewhat of a miracle drug. I have no problem with it going corporate if it means you won’t ruin people’s lives if they got caught with a couple of joints.”

Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Robert Weisman, Globe Staff
Published: April 13, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Globe Newspaper Company
Contact: letter@globe.com
Website: http://www.boston.com/globe/

What Perfect Marijuana High Would Feel Like

April 15th, 2014

Marijuana users really enjoy strong weed, but would prefer that it came without paranoia, memory loss and impaired ability to function. That’s according to a new report from the Global Drug Survey in partnership with The Huffington Post, which anonymously surveyed more than 38,000 users around the globe.

All marijuana is not created equal. Effects can vary depending on the plant variety, cultivation, processing and blending. Cannabis has two major plant types — indica and sativa — and hundreds of hybrid strains with different characteristics. It’s produced in forms that include dried flowers, oil and wax.

The survey asked users what they’d like in a “perfect cannabis.” The results show that the “global dominance of high potency [marijuana] leaves many users far from satisfied,” the researchers say.

So what would the effects be of perfect pot — or “balanced bud” as the Global Drug Survey calls it?

Users want their cannabis to be strong and pure. And they want it to have a distinct flavor, and to impart a high marked by greater sensory perception, allowing them to “comfortably” speak to others with more giggles and laughs, while giving them the “ability to function when stoned,” according to the Global Drug Survey report.

Users report they don’t like some side effects of strong marijuana, including hangover feelings, paranoia, harmful effects on the lungs, feelings of becoming forgetful, an urge to use more, and feelings of being distracted or preoccupied, according to the survey.

Responses to the Global Drug Survey:

“There appears to be a paradox in the way people describe their perfect cannabis,” the Global Drug Survey report says. “This is because most the effects of being ‘high’ are due to THC, but higher doses of this drug are associated with more negative psychological effects. So while they want a preparation with overall more pleasurable effects, they also describe wanting less of the negative effects that are also due to THC such as sedation, munchies, memory impairment, restlessness. It might well be what they are describing is a high potency THC containing preparation balanced by CBD which is missing from many current strains.”

Currently, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use and more than a dozen other states are considering legalization in some form. With all that interest and all those regulated marketplaces, growers and sellers can tap into users’ preferences with the Global Drug Survey data and help design a better plant.

The Global Drug Survey bills itself as the world’s biggest annual survey of drug users. This year, 79,322 people from more than a dozen countries participated in the anonymous online questionnaire.

Because the Global Drug Survey does not involve a random sample of participants, its results cannot be considered representative of any larger population. “Ultimately, the only people that this study (like so many others) can definitively tell you about are those who have participated,” the researchers say.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Matt Ferner, The Huffington Post
Published: April 14, 2014
Copyright: 2014 HuffingtonPost.com, LLC
Contact: scoop@huffingtonpost.com
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Bill Would Loosen MMJ Restrictions in D.C.

April 8th, 2014

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
Website: http://www.washtimes.com/
Contact: letters@washingtontimes.com

Feds Appeal Medical Marijuana Injunction

April 8th, 2014

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.

Feds Favor Anti-Pot Research

April 8th, 2014

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.

Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2014 Austin American-Statesman
Contact: letters@statesman.com
Website: http://www.statesman.com/

America Is Turning A Corner On Marijuana

April 2nd, 2014

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
Contact: scoop@huffingtonpost.com
Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Marijuana Research Hampered by Access from Gov.

March 24th, 2014

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.

Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Ariana Eunjung Cha
Published: March 21, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Washington Post Company
Contact: letters@washpost.com
Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Medical marijuana users can grow at home, for now

March 21st, 2014

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

Source: CBC

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/medical-marijuana-users-can-grow-at-home-for-now-1.2581742