CNN’s Gupta To Drop Another MMJ Bombshell Tonight?

posted in: Cannabis News 0

He rocked the medical-marijuana world last year and drew attention from Congress when he apologized for giving short shrift to medical marijuana. At 10 p.m. Tuesday, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be at it again, airing “Weed 2,” his second, hour-long special on the health benefits of cannabis.

Michigan’s medical-pot advocates say it could be a second bombshell in the national debate on pot. “We think it’ll be another big deal across our country, and hopefully even in other parts of the world where they are thinking about changing their laws,” said Heidi Parikh of Romulus, founder of the Michigan Compassion education groups that meet in Royal Oak and Southgate.

Gupta, who grew up in Novi and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Medicine, will narrate the show, which will include sick youngsters and their parents struggling to obtain cannabis against legal barriers placed by state and federal authorities.

“If you want to understand the science, this is something you’ll want to watch,” Gupta told the Free Press on Monday. “The drug continues to be unfairly rejected by most of the American medical establishment and by government drug regulators,” he said.

“My sense as a doctor is that people have an option now, something that actually was an option up until the 1940s (when the federal government made marijuana illegal).

“There’s a lot of evidence now that this not only works for many ailments but it often works where nothing else has,” he said. The show will discuss how cannabis can ease symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer and other diseases.

As a father as well as a brain surgeon and medical professor, Gupta said he remains opposed to exposing young people to marijuana. And he hedged when asked about legalization for recreational use, calling that an issue for a future show. But he said medical cannabis clearly has a key role to play in seizure disorders, the safe alleviation of pain and numerous other health applications.

Last week, the Medical Marijuana New Conditions Review Board in Lansing approved one new use for medical marijuana, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while denying applications that it be allowed for insomnia and bipolar disorder.

“If you look at the science, you don’t see the longer-term side effects (in adults who use marijuana) that you see in someone whose brain is still developing,” Gupta said. He said brain development is still incomplete in most young adults all the way to age 25, so marijuana and alcohol use should be strictly limited before then.

“Traditionally, we consider 21 to be the age of adulthood. But research clearly shows that our brains are still developing at 21,” he said.

Gupta said he’d reviewed reams of medical studies in preparation for the show, delving into the regulatory hurdles of getting medical marijuana accepted over the vested interests of giant drug companies, the medical colleges that teach doctors how to prescribe it, and the government regulators who are wedded to caution and the war on drugs.

Many illnesses don’t respond well to existing, FDA-approved drugs, he said.

“The American Epilepsy Foundation says there’s about a million patients out there who aren’t getting relief from their seizures,” Gupta said.

The show tells the story of many patients who had to move to Colorado to get the medical pot they need. Voters in Colorado, along with those in Washington state, voted to fully legalize marijuana last year.

“We’re all very excited” about Gupta’s second show, said Robin Schneider, legislative chairwoman for the Detroit-based National Patients Rights Association, an advocacy group for medical-marijuana laws.

“We thought his first show raised a lot of awareness about medical marijuana, particularly for children,” Schneider said. The timing is good because two bills that relate directly to Gupta’s program are getting fresh attention in Lansing this week, she said.

At a hearing scheduled for today, lawmakers will receive the first testimony on House Bill 4271, which would let each community in Michigan decide for itself whether to allow dispensaries where state-approved patients could buy tested medical pot, she said.

At the same hearing, lawmakers will discuss House Bill 5104, which would allow non-smokable forms of marijuana in Michigan, which are essential to treating children, Schneider said.

Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Author: Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Published: March 10, 2014
Copyright: 2014 Detroit Free Press
Contact: [email protected]

US Policy Clouds Approvals of Medical Marijuana

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Doctors at Massachusetts community health centers have been advised not to authorize any of their more than 638,000 patients to obtain marijuana for medical purposes because the centers fear they would lose their federal funding.

The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers has advised its 36 federally funded facilities to hold off on issuing patient marijuana certifications under the state’s new medical marijuana law, because use remains illegal under federal law.

Health center physicians who believe marijuana might be beneficial for certain patients and authorize its use could be committing a “potential violation of federal law and could result in legal and financial exposure for community health centers,” according to a statement from the League.

This disconnect between state and federal marijuana law is cropping up in other areas as well; some rules restrict tenants who use medical marijuana from living in federally subsidized housing, or prevent Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics from authorizing medical marijuana.

Voters approved a ballot initiative in November, making Massachusetts one of 20 states, and the District of Columbia, that allow medical marijuana use. Community health centers in other states also have advised doctors against authorizing patients to use marijuana.

It is not just federal funding at stake if the centers certify patients for marijuana use, but also loss of malpractice insurance, covered by a federal program known as the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Also, should a community health center physician be convicted under federal law for certifying a patient, the physician could be shut out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the insurance that covers many who use health centers.

The National Association of Community Health Centers is unaware of any center or center physician that have faced federal sanctions for prescribing medical marijuana, but the threat of prosecution or funding loss looms large.

“Community health centers have been providing access to care for decades, but there is no assurance that they would not come under federal investigation or that their physicians would not face trouble for certifying medical conditions under state medical marijuana programs, given it is an unsettled area of the law,” said Kathryn Watson, an attorney at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, a Washington-based law firm that advises the national group.

With health insurance unlikely to cover medical marijuana treatments, state regulators tried to ensure that lower-income people would be able to afford medical marijuana. State-licensed cannabis dispensaries must offer discounted or free marijuana to patients with documented financial hardship, but the community health centers’ stance could undermine that goal.

Among these patients is Gary, a 61-year-old disabled former church outreach worker who received a certification for medical marijuana use this year from his primary care physician at the Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center in Allston. A few puffs before meals helps pique his appetite, which, along with his weight, has shriveled because of hepatitis C, a disease that attacks the liver.

Gary asked that his last name not be used for fear of losing his publicly subsidized apartment, where medical marijuana use is prohibited.

In July, Gary received notice from the health center that his marijuana certification was being rescinded because the center was worried about losing federal funding, which accounts for about 10 percent of the facility’s funding.

“I am in a Catch-22 position,” Gary said. “I have a [doctor’s certification] that may or may not be valid.”

He has been buying marijuana on the street, bargaining prices between $200 and $300 for an ounce, and eagerly awaiting the opening of dispensaries,where he could get reduced-cost or free marijuana, as well as edible or vapor options, which would be gentler on his scarred lungs.

Paola Ferrer, grants and development director at the Allston health center, said the organization cannot risk its federal funding and care for 12,000 patients by writing certifications for a small number.

“We are really tied to the federal government and the funding stream, and until the legal issues are adequately resolved, we are not at liberty to do this,” Ferrer said.

Regulations issued by the Massachusetts health department in May require people who want to legally buy medical marijuana to receive a physician’s written certification that they have a “debilitating medical condition” that would benefit from marijuana use.

Like patients treated at community health centers, those who receive care at Veterans Affairs facilities face challenges obtaining certification. In a 2011 memo, the Department of Veterans Affairs reminded its physicians that it prohibits them from “completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in a state marijuana program.”

The memo, however, said department policy does not prohibit veterans who legally participate in a state marijuana program from also receiving other treatment at VA centers.

More confusing is a 2011 memo from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to public housing authorities. It directs them to establish standards and leases that prohibit new tenants, and those with new subsidized housing vouchers, from using “state-legalized medical marijuana,” but gives authorities discretion to allow medical marijuana use by current residents and “to determine continued occupancy policies that are most appropriate for their local communities.”

An August memo from the US Department of Justice to federal prosecutors has also left many lawyers and health administrators unsettled.

The department attempted to clarify its policy by listing eight priorities, such as preventing marijuana sales to minors. The priorities do not specifically mention selling, growing, or authorizing patients to get marijuana for medical use.

The department is “committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way,” the memo states.

It concludes by noting the department still has authority to enforce federal laws “including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law.”

Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Kay Lazar, Boston Globe Staff
Published: October 9, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Globe Newspaper Company
Contact: [email protected]

Pro-Marijuana Ads on Portland Buses Draw Fire

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Groups that fight substance abuse want to snuff out ads on Portland area buses and bus shelters that promote a ballot question seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use. The Marijuana Policy Project unveiled ads Wednesday that appear on four public transit buses and in two bus shelters.

The campaign features six ads, each with a photo of an adult explaining why he or she prefers marijuana over alcohol and asking why they should be punished for making the choice. Portland residents will vote in November on whether to make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of pot. The law would prohibit using marijuana in public, and would not legalize its sale.

A community group called 21 Reasons said it has asked the Greater Portland Transit District to pull the ads, said Kate Perkins, a co-founder of the group, which is committed to keeping youth alcohol- and drug-free.She said the ads endorse marijuana and are a bad idea because a large proportion of bus riders are children.

“There are plenty of places where the pro-marijuana people can advertise where they aren’t putting their message in front of our young people,” Perkins said. David Boyer, political director for Marijuana Policy Project Maine, said adults and children are bombarded by alcohol advertising and that the new ads merely compare alcohol and marijuana.

The ads claim that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and doesn’t make people “rowdy and reckless.” “We want voters to question whether we should punish people for using a substance that’s safer than alcohol,” he said.Greg Jordan, general manager of the transit district, said it allows political adveristing, and that the ads are political because they support a ballot question.

“It’s really a First Amendment issue,” he said.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Published: October 2, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

Canada Rolls Out a ‘$1 Billion’ MMJ Industry

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Marijuana was Canada’s newest mail-order product Tuesday, the inaugural day of a controlled medical marijuana industry that is expected to grow to more than $1 billion dollars within 10 years. But even as the new system privatizes distribution, critics fear regulation under the conservative-led government will make it harder for patients to get access to the drug.

In Canada, medical marijuana has been legal but highly regulated for more than a decade. Patients with doctor approval could grow or have someone else grow small quantities or request limited amounts from Health Canada, the national healthcare department.

But the conservative-led government voted earlier this year to effectively scrap that system in favor of a private—but also strictly regulated—system, targeting the flow of legal marijuana into the black market and shedding Health Canada’s role in marijuana production. Health Canada will phase out the current system, under which it sells registered users marijuana grown by Prairie Plant Systems, by the end of March.

Instead, starting Tuesday, medical marijuana users, or aspiring users, can send in an application directly to sanctioned corporate producers, along with a doctor’s note (or in some cases, a nurse’s note). If approved, they can place an order, pay the market price (the black market price is about $10 a gram; officials say the medical marijuana price will drop below that within a year), and wait for the secure courier to deliver their weed.

There are nearly 40,000 people registered to use the drug under the current system in a country with a tenth the population of the U.S., and the government expects that number to balloon—up to 450,000 by 2024—and fuel what could become a $1.3 billion domestic pot industry. But the government expects that the privatized system, with only heavily-vetted producers (so far there are two licensed distributors, of at least 156 applications), will help ensure a higher level of oversight.

“We’re fairly confident that we’ll have a healthy commercial industry in time,” Sophie Galarneau, a senior official with Health Canada, told the Canadian Press. “It’s a whole other ball game.”

The new regulations have failed to win over advocates for legalized marijuana, who have faced strong resistance from the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In November, even as two states in the United States voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the Harper government passed strict minimum penalties for people who grow as few as six marijuana plants.

“They treat pot like it’s plutonium,” says Blair Longley, head of the single-issue Marijuana Party that fielded five candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Speaking to TIME, Longley says he’s concerned the market-based system, which nixes the right to cheaply grow marijuana at home, will make marijuana less affordable for patients.

“We always knew that marijuana would get legalized in the worst possible way. It’s not a surprise that that’s what’s happening,” Longley says.

Undeterred, potential growers are lining up to be licensed in the new system, including the conditional owners of a former Hershey’s chocolate factory.

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” Eric Nash, a licensed grower in the past who’s planning to enter the new market, told the Canadian Press. “We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking.”

Source: Time Magazine (US)
Author: Noah Rayman
Published: October 2, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Time Inc.
Contact: [email protected]

Morgan Says Marijuana is Safer

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Claiming that medical marijuana would be a safer, non-addictive and more-effective alternative to OxyContin, Orlando attorney John Morgan condemned the prescription pain killer in a speech Friday to argue that many of its users would be far better off smoking pot.

Speaking to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Morgan said that OxyContin, a commonly prescribed – and abused – pain medication, kills 16,000 people a year and addicts many more. He claimed marijuana – which is illegal in Florida and most states – is comparatively harmless and more effective.

“It is truly a disgrace what goes on,” said Morgan, best known for his Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, who chairs a statewide campaign to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the 2014 Florida ballot. “OxyContin is a poison that is put into our system by pharmaceutical companies that make billions and billions of dollars.”

OxyContin is a brand-name drug whose active ingredient is oxycodone, an opioid analgesic. The Centers for Disease Control reported in February that there were 16,651 opioid analgesics overdose deaths nationally in 2010.

However, a statewide law-enforcement crackdown on illegal sales and use has cut the number of oxycodone-related Florida deaths by 41 percent, to 735 in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Still, oxycodone remains the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state.

Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, did not immediately respond Friday to Morgan’s speech.

Morgan’s point was to make marijuana look good by comparison.

“One thing I think most of us accept as truth is medical marijuana works, and it works for a broad variety of illnesses and ailments,” Morgan said. “It’s helpful with ALS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, all sorts of chronic pain.”

Morgan chairs People United for Medical Marijuana, which is running a petition drive to get legalization on the November 2014 ballot. The group surpassed 100,000 signatures last month and has sent the proposed amendment language to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. It will then be reviewed by the state Supreme Court for ballot validation. People United would then have to gather at least 683,159 voter signatures.

Morgan has contributed $150,000 of the $248,000 that the campaign raised in the first six months of this year.

After his 35-minute speech, at least four Tiger Bay members approached Morgan privately to say that they or someone they know has cancer or some other ailment and were interested in his message. Morgan said his father, Ramon, used it while he was dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and esophageal cancer 20 years ago.

Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Author: Scott Powers, Staff Writer
Published: September 27, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Orlando Sentinel
Contact: [email protected]

Canada’s new Medical Marijuana rules cut Homegrowers, Pharmacists Out

posted in: Cannabis News 0

After two years of study and discussion, the federal government has finalized new rules for medical marijuana and granted a reprieve to pharmacists who opposed the rules in their draft form.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq rolled out the regulations today for formal publication in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday.

Under the new regime, the government will no longer produce or distribute medical pot and medical marijuana users will no longer be allowed to grow the product at home.

Health Canada said since the medical marijuana program was introduced in 2001, it has expanded to 30,000 people from the original 500 authorized to use the product.

“This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” the department said in a news release.

“Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”

Under the new regulations, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers who will be required to meet strict conditions.

In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking concern from pharmacists, who expressed concerns about dispensing a product without sufficient research. They also cited security concerns.

The final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, leaving patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said in a statement.

“These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

She used similar reasoning last week when she introduced new hurdles for the creation of supervised drug-injection sites in response to a court ruling.

Physicians and pharmacists alike questioned the regulatory changes, saying there is little evidence that medical marijuana is either effective or safe.

The umbrella group representing the country’s colleges of physicians and surgeons said the changes won’t protect people.

“We believe that the new federal medical marijuana regulations put patients and the general public at risk,” Dr. Rocco Gerace, president of the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, said in a statement.

“Physicians should not be asked to prescribe or dispense substances or treatments for which there is little or no evidence of clinical efficacy or safety.”

In December, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Anna Reid, described the proposed marijuana rules as “akin to asking doctors to write prescriptions while blindfolded.”

“Not only does prescribing drugs that haven’t been clinically tested fly in the face of medical training and ethics, but marijuana’s potential benefits and adverse effects have not been rigorously tested.”

The Canadian Pharmacists Association responded in February to a set of draft rules.

“There is little information available on safety, effectiveness, dosage, drug interactions or long-term health risks,” the association said in its letter to Health Canada.

“Pharmacists, physicians and nurse practitioners need evidence-based information to support safe and effective prescribing and dispensing of (medical marijuana).”

The association said it didn’t know how many pharmacies would be willing to participate a revamped system.

“While the distribution process would be regulated, there remains the concern with pharmacists dispensing a product that does not have adequate safety and effectiveness evidence. In addition, the potential security risks to pharmacies due to robberies would need to be considered.”

Could Pot Stop This Baby’s Seizures?

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Toronto parents struggling with baby Kaitlyn’s Dravet syndrome call for clinical trials here after miraculous results in Colorado.

Kaitlyn Pogson has lived through more seizures than calendar months.

The 9-month-old’s epilepsy sends her tiny body into convulsions that last up to an hour.  Right now they happen every three days, but as she grows the seizures will become more frequent – potentially topping 300 per week.

That’s one every 34 minutes.

Every time she has a seizure, Kaitlyn’s parents, Barry and Shannon, call 911 and take her to the emergency room, where doctors give her antiseizure drugs that don’t work.  It’s a frighteningly repetitive routine.

Kaitlyn’s condition is so severe they have a special name for it: Dravet syndrome.  Not only does it grow worse over time, it’s notoriously resistant to traditional medication.

But a growing number of doctors and families with Dravet say they’ve stumbled upon a miracle drug: marijuana.

“Kate is on morphine and three other drugs not normally given to children,” and they’re not working, Barry said.  “Rules are already being broken.  So why not this one?”

Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy ( SMEI ), is a catastrophic form of epilepsy that occurs in one in every 30,000 births.  Besides leading to developmental delays, the syndrome is also associated with higher rates of sudden unexplained death.

When Kaitlyn had her first seizure at barely 2 months old, Barry didn’t even know what a seizure looked like.  Now, between hospital visits and work, he’s been researching online and discovered the story of a little girl in Colorado who was able to reduce her seizures by more than 99 per cent.

With a small dose of marijuana extract administered orally three times a day, little Charlotte went from being “flaccid, lying in her mothers arms and unresponsive,” to a walking, talking little girl, said Dr.  Alan Shackelford, who oversaw her treatment.

“The response was instantaneous,” Shackelford told the Star by telephone.  “After the first dose, the seizures stopped =C2=85 and she didn’t suffer a seizure for seven days.”

Charlotte now suffers one seizure every other week, Shackelford says, “a remarkable and heretofore unprecedented change.”

The key is a strain of marijuana that is high in the active substance Cannabidiol ( CBD ) but very low in THC, the chemical that gets you high.

Shackelford says Colorado’s liberal marijuana laws allow doctors like him to perform “valid observational study” and publish their results.  But federal regulations are still formidable barriers for any doctor to undertake formal clinical trials with a Schedule 1 controlled substance like cannabis.

“We need to study this to know what’s going on, what dosages work best and develop treatment for children and adults alike,” said Shackelford.

At New York University, Dr.  Orrin Devinsky has just received FDA approval for a clinical trial to study the safety and tolerability of CBD in children with epilepsy.

“At this point, I think we really lack much data,” said Devinsky, who points to promising results in animals, but says the real push came from the anecdotal evidence provided by parents in Colorado.

“I’ve spoken with these parents, and I think they’re solid, good, loving parents, who’ve had very good experiences.  Whether this will be borne out by scientific studies is uncertain,” he said.

If the trials go perfectly and there are no setbacks, Devinsky estimates that CBD could be approved in the U.S.  in two to three years.

In that case, parents from across the country – whether in pot-friendly Colorado or pot-hostile Texas – would have access to the drug.

But in Canada, despite our relatively liberal medical marijuana laws, there still isn’t a single trial or study taking place on the use of high-CBD marijuana for juvenile epilepsy.

Health Canada rules allow anyone suffering from epileptic seizures to apply for a licence to possess marijuana for medical purposes.  With that licence, you can also apply to grow your own marijuana.

The problem for the Pogsons is that the marijuana available in Canada has far too little CBD and too much THC to treat an infant like Kaitlyn.

“CBD is very difficult to procure.  It’s a freak form of marijuana,” said Barry.  “You can’t import it to Canada.”

The Pogsons have started an online petition calling on Health Canada to allow CBD into the country and to sponsor medical trials to study CBD’s benefits and the appropriate dosages.

“There isn’t really any other solid hope for a treatment out there,” said Barry.  “All the drugs either don’t work, or start out working and then stop.”

In the past few months, the Pogsons moved out of their new house near Oshawa and into a condo downtown, to be closer to the Hospital for Sick Children.  They take shifts watching over Kaitlyn while she sleeps, for fear of a nocturnal seizure.  They’re exhausted, irritable and have very little hope things will improve in the near future if they can’t somehow bring CBD into the country.

“This could be what she needs,” Barry said.

Medical marijuana without the high

Marijuana growers in Colorado have developed a special strain of pot with very little THC – the chemical that gets you high – and very high Cannabidiol ( CBD ), the component believed to reduce seizures.  They’ve dubbed it “Charlotte’s Web” in honour of their first patient.

In a video detailing Charlotte’s turnaround, grower Josh Stanley says the strain, which has only 0.5 per cent THC and 17 per cent CBD, is “the future of medical marijuana.”

A similar strain is being developed in Israel, says Dr.  Alan Shackelford, who hopes to secure funding to conduct clinical trials there.

GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK is developing a CBD medication to treat epilepsy.  The company, which specializes in drugs made from cannabinoids, has a spray that contains a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC content that’s currently available to multiple sclerosis patients in Canada and holds high hopes for a future CBD-heavy medication.

“There’s been some very promising preclinical work,” said company spokesman Mark Rogerson.  “We think that there is definitely scope for clinical trials for a product like this.”

Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 The Toronto Star
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Marco Chown Oved

Senate OKs Bill to Legalize Medical Pot Shops

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Seeking to make it easier for medical pot users to get their medicine and harder for the black market to get its hands on Oregon weed, the state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would legalize and license marijuana shops.

Under current Oregon law, nearly 55,000 cardholders must grow the drug themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. Medical pot users say dispensaries are needed, to give them a reliable place to get their medicine.

Medical marijuana dispensaries that exist now operate without oversight and run the risk of being shut down by law enforcement. Some counties have taken a hands-off approach and allowed the establishments to remain open. But dispensaries in other counties have been raided by police and forced to close.

Another major concern of Oregon’s medical pot program is that the weed supposedly intended for medical marijuana patients is getting sold on the black market.

Architects of the bill passed on Wednesday say it will give cardholders certainty that they can acquire their medicine, and that it is safe. They also hope the bill will keep excess pot from being siphoned off to the black market.

“This is a great way to impose a standard that will keep that from occurring,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanksi, D-Eugene.

The bill, which passed 18-12, would establish a licensing system under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to regulate the medicinal pot retail industry. This would bring the estimated 200 lounges, collectives and cafes already in operation under the purview of state law.

Opponents say the bill doesn’t go far enough to stop what they see as abuses to the state’s medical marijuana program. And some lawmakers have argued that authorizing dispensaries is a slippery slope to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The bill would authorize growers to legally sell their excess pot to medical marijuana establishments that connect patients with their medicine. Growers could only charge for the cost of supplies and utilities.

Under the bill, medical marijuana retailers would pay $4,000 a year to remain registered. Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, document the marijuana coming into their establishments and verify it’s from state-registered growers. The bill also requires testing all marijuana batches for pesticides, molds and mildews.

A legislative report estimates there will be 225 state-licensed dispensaries in the next two years if the bill is approved.

The bill would also prohibit medical marijuana retail outlets from operating within 1,000 feet of each other or a school. And they would have to operate in agricultural, industrial or commercial areas.

Supporters of the bill include Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the League of Oregon Cities.

In a letter endorsing the bill, the organization wrote: “While there are a number of divergent viewpoints on medical marijuana among Oregon’s cities, there is a common need to ensure that those providing medical marijuana do so in a responsible manner.”

A Senate committee modified the bill last week to satisfy concerns raised by some district attorneys who initially opposed the bill. Among other changes, the revised bill would tighten a restriction prohibiting people convicted of certain drug crimes from running a medical marijuana dispensary. The district attorneys are now neutral on the bill.

The legislation now goes to the House, which approved an earlier version of the bill but must agree to the Senate’s changes. A vote is expected this weekend.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Lauren Gambino, The Associated Press
Published: July 4, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

Google Quietly Giving Aid To Marijuana Activists

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Cancer patients who Google the words “chemotherapy nausea” today get a host of advertisements for treatment, including pills, skin patches and folk remedies used to prevent vomiting. Next month, however, the same search will turn up an ad for something a bit more controversial: medical marijuana.

The change comes courtesy of the charitable unit of Google, which last week gifted a Michigan medical marijuana advocacy group $120,000 worth of its services. As part of the grant, the group, Michigan Compassion, will be able to promote medical marijuana use through Google’s popular AdWords platform — the plain-text advertisements that pop up to the right side of any given search result.

Michigan Compassion does not sell marijuana but connects patients and growers, and it says the ads will appear alongside searches likely to be made by chemotherapy patients.

“The goal is to link the negative effects of chemotherapy and the positive effects of cannabis,” Amish Parikh, vice-president of Michigan Compassion, told The Huffington Post.

The ads’ value is small in the scheme of Google’s AdWords program, which brings in over $40 billion per year in revenue, but they represent a change for the Mountain View, Calif. firm, which has a strict policy against hosting ads for marijuana-related searches.

Google’s new generosity toward marijuana advocates fits neatly in Silicon Valley, however, where tech companies and their employees have been quietly contributing to cannabis activism, an area attorney involved in the marijuana legalization movement told The Huffington Post.

“They’re not the ones coming to the city council meetings to protest, but they quietly send in their donations,” attorney Lauren Vazquez said. “And they’re definitely consuming the cannabis,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Google declined to comment on whether the grant made to Michigan Compassion meant the company was taking an advocacy position in favor of medical marijuana.

AdWords has a policy against allowing advertisements for drugs and drug paraphernalia, but is allowing the Michigan Compassion ads since the organization does not directly supply such products. Google does not allow advertisers to link their ads to searches with words like “cannabis” and “marijuana.”

The spokeswoman said the ads would not appear in web searches done by those using a “family safe” filter, and text would show up only in states where medical marijuana is legal. (While legal for medical use in 19 states and the District of Columbia, possessing marijuana for any purpose remains a federal crime.)

It’s been noted before that the culture inside California tech companies is highly supportive of marijuana use, with on-the-job drug testing extremely rare. According to a Businessweek article on the topic earlier this year, the city of San Jose, where many industry workers live, has more than 100 pot clinics, and it’s considered normal for programmers to soothe the stress of long days hunched over a computer with a visit to one of those retailers.

“I think Silicon Valley is very supportive,” said Michigan Compassion’s Parikh. “There’s a lot of testing the waters, though.”

LinkedIn, the professional social networking company also based in Mountain View, is providing Michigan Compassion with free services to help reach potential donors and board members, according to Parikh.

An email requesting comment from LinkedIn was not returned.

Michigan Compassion has also received donated equipment and software from other tech companies channeled through San Francisco-based TechSoup Global. And Vertical Response, an email marketing firm also based in San Francisco, provided the group with several thousand dollars’ worth of free marketing technology.

A spokeswoman for Vertical Response, Connie Sung Moyle, said Michigan Compassion was not given a grant specifically due to the nature of its work but as a result of its non-profit status. Moyle said Vertical Response has provided in-kind donations to some 2,600 charities since 2005. “We don’t really discriminate either way as long as what they’re doing is above the law,” she said.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Eleazar David Melendez
Published: June 27, 2013
Copyright: 2013, LLC
Contact: [email protected]

Feds Announce Mail-Order Medical Pot

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Ottawa’s decision to phase out both government and personal medical marijuana production came as no surprise to patient advocates who opposed the new rules.

“I’m not surprised a bit,” said Ric Bills, who organized a rally protesting the proposed changes in Sechelt earlier this year.  “I didn’t think public comments would change what they had in store.  The Harper government doesn’t seem to care about patients whose lives are stake.  They put it all on public safety.  They’re really sticking it to the people.”

On June 10, Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Ottawa was proceeding with its plan to stop producing and distributing medical pot and is also removing the right of patients or their designates to grow their own plants.

Under the new system, all production will shift to private companies operating under contract to Health Canada and prescribed patients will only be able to obtain medical pot by mail order.  A suggestion in the draft regulations to allow pharmacists to dispense the product was scrapped after the Canadian Pharmacists Association strongly objected to the plan.

The changes are expected to mean significantly higher prices for patients who currently grow their own, and that will breathe new life into the black market, Bills predicted.

“The black market will get more profitable because if people can’t grow it themselves, they’ll go to the black market for it.  Some people can’t afford it.  They’ll keep growing and risk their freedom, and I guess some will be in pain.  It’s pretty backward,” he said.

Bills, who was a lawyer in the U.S.  before relocating to Halfmoon Bay, said Canada is “really behind the curve” compared to states such as Colorado and Washington, which are legalizing and planning to tax recreational marijuana.

“They’re going ahead.  We’re going backwards,” he said.

The new system, he said, will likely attract commercial operators who are in it for the money.

“You can’t really know patients through a mail order system.  It’s very impersonal.”

Both medical pot programs will operate concurrently until March 31, 2014, when the current regulations will be repealed, Health Canada said in a release.

Explaining the reason for the change, Health Canada said its medical pot program had grown exponentially since 2001 from 500 to more than 30,000 authorized persons.

“This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” the release said.  “Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.”

Aglukkaq confirmed details of the new program during a press conference held on June 10 in an Ottawa fire hall.

“While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said.  “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities, while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.”

Bills questioned the number of fires that were actually sparked by medical marijuana grow-ops, and said the cost of related home invasions nationwide quoted by government — about $2 million per year — was a “pretty pathetic” figure.

“I think they’re blowing up their statistics and the harm of it all, and it’s not going to do away with medical marijuana grows,” Bills said.

Saying education and inspections would be a far better approach, Bills reiterated a theme expressed by patients and growers at the Sechelt rally in February.

“The Harper government doesn’t want it to work.  They’re going to spend a lot of money dragging it through the courts, and they’re going to lose, because the courts have been clear that it has to be reasonable access,” he said.

The new rules, he added, are “just scary” in light of the Conservatives’ mandatory minimum sentencing provisions and civil forfeiture laws, which could result in unlicensed growers having their homes seized.

“There’s Charter rights involved — that’s what people don’t understand,” Bills said.  “They’re constitutional rights and government is taking them away.”

Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Coast Reporter
Contact: [email protected]
Author: John Gleeson

1 2 3 4 5 6