Emerging Marijuana Reform In The US
Emerging Marijuana Reform In The US
Marijuana Advocate Pushes For Legalization In Oklahoma
Oklahoma authorities fear more marijuana will likely end up in the state as legal marijuana stores open in Colorado. It is the first state in the nation to allow retail pot shops. Organizers of Colorado's campaign to legalize marijuana expect almost $400-million in sales this year alone and say it will create jobs, tax revenue, and reduce crime. Back here at home, an advocate who has been pushing for the legalization of pot for 26 years says this is good news for Oklahoma. "I think it will show us that it can be done and the sky won't fall," said Norma Sapp. There aren't many Oklahomans more passionate about the legalization of marijuana than Sapp. "It's a plant. We should not have a plant being illegal. God made plants," said Sapp. Norma has been an advocate for changes in Oklahoma's marijuana laws since 1989, and 26 years later, still nothing. "When you have a felony conviction, it ruins your life," said Sapp. "You're never going to reach your potential. Your children are never going to have what they could have had. It's embarrassing." Seeing lines of people at pot shops after Colorado's historical legalization of the drug gives Sapp hope. "They have freedom, and the world will see that it's not going to hurt anything. Nothing is going to change," said Sapp. A spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics says Oklahoma will likely see more marijuana because of the Colorado law change. According to OBN, Oklahoma saw a boost in marijuana activity after Colorado legalized medical marijuana back in 2010. "You can go to the store right now, spend 99 cents on a bottle of aspirin and kill yourself. Marijuana will not…hurt you," said Sapp. In Colorado, Marijuana buyers must be 21 and it can't be smoked in public places. You can only purchase up to an ounce a day per transaction. Non-residents are restricted to a quarter-ounce and can't take it out of state.
New Hampshire House To Vote On Legalizing Up To 1 Ounce Of Marijuana
New Hampshire's House votes early next month whether to legalize up to 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational use for anyone age 21 and older. Supporters propose taxing the drug when it is sold at retail at a rate of $30 per ounce and letting people grow up to six marijuana plants in a controlled environment. State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican supporting the bill, says the legislation is modeled after one approved by Colorado voters last year and is similar to one Washington voters passed. "Nothing in the bill would allow anyone to drive under the influence of marijuana or any other substance. By legalizing, regulating and taxing (marijuana), society would in effect be taking the profit away from illegal operations which truly harm society," he wrote fellow representatives in support of the bill. Vaillancourt said taxing the drug would produce millions of dollars in tax revenue. He noted that the bill would not be effective until July 1 to provide time to implement it properly. Opponents argue marijuana is bad for people's health and would be difficult to regulate. Criminal Justice and Public Safety Chairwoman Laura Pantelakos also noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "If New Hampshire were to legalize and regulate marijuana, it would create an unclear picture of the state versus federal law enforcement, particularly since the (Department of Justice) has stated it will rely on states that legalize to strictly enforce and regulate marijuana," Pantelakos said in a report to the House. She said that could shift regulatory costs onto the state. Lawmakers have considered but rejected decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use in the past, most recently last session. But decriminalization supporters were encouraged when the state — with Gov. Maggie Hassan's backing — made it legal for the seriously ill to possess and use the drug earlier this year. Implementing the state's medical marijuana law is expected to take a year. If the bill passes the House, it faces a doubtful future. The Senate rejected a bill to decriminalize possession of up to one-quarter ounce of the drug this year and Hassan opposes decriminalization.
Marijuana Helped Teen Fight Leukemia, Say Doctors
A 17-year-old Ontario girl showed significant improvements after turning to cannabis to fight aggressive leukemia, according to two doctors who reported her case. Using high doses of marijuana extract, prepared via methods outlined by well-known cannabis activist Rick Simpson, the patient experienced rapid reductions in leukemic cell counts. Local doctors Yadvinder Singh, MD and Chamandeep Bali, ND detailed the case last month in the journal Case Reports in Oncology. “Despite the nonstandardization of the medicines, the dose was readily titrated according to the biological response of the patient and produced a potentially life-saving response, namely, the drop in the leukemic blast cell count.” The patient, who was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 14, eventually turned to high doses of cannabis extract after 34 months of traditional chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy treatments proved unsuccessful. Although the patient passed away 11 weeks into marijuana treatment, her death was caused by severe intestinal bleeding, a common side-effect of chemotherapy. On the other hand, after starting marijuana treatment, the doctors report that the patient experienced almost no side-effects, and became healthy enough to return home from her placement at a palliative care center. “It must be noted that where our most advanced chemotherapeutic agents had failed to control the blast counts and had devastating side effects that ultimately resulted in the death of the patient, the cannabinoid therapy had no toxic side effects and only psychosomatic properties, with an increase in the patient’s vitality.” While case reports on marijuana’s anti-cancer effects are rare, the authors note that an abundance of pre-clinical studies support the potential of cannabis compounds to fight various cancers, including leukemia. What’s more, both research and the current case report suggest a dose-dependent effect, meaning that higher doses show stronger anti-cancer activity. Unfortunately, despite the promise, progress in clinical settings has been slow. “It goes without saying that much more research and, even more importantly, phase clinical trials need to be implemented to determine the benefits of such therapies. Laboratory analysis is critical to figure out the constituents/profiles/ratios of the vast cannabis strains that show the most favored properties for exerting possible anticancer effects.” Cannabis also appears to be safer and less toxic than traditional cancer therapies, according to the authors, who conclude: “It is tempting to speculate that, with integration of this care in a setting of full medical and laboratory support, a better outcome may indeed be achieved in the future.”
The Media Should Stop Pretending Marijuana's Risks Are a Mystery -- The Science Is Clear
Speaking recently with the Los Angeles Times, UCLA professor and former Washington state "pot czar" Mark Kleiman implied that we as a society are largely ignorant when it comes to the subject of weed. Speaking with Times columnist Patt Morrison, Kleiman stated, “I keep saying we don't know nearly as much about cannabis as Pillsbury knows about brownie mix.” Kleiman’s allegation—that the marijuana plant and its effects on society still remains largely a mystery—is a fairly common refrain. But it is far from accurate. Despite the US government's nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history. To date, there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years according to a keyword search on PubMed Central, the US government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research. Over 1,450 peer-reviewed papers were published in 2013 alone. (By contrast, a keyword search of "hydrocodone," a commonly prescribed painkiller, yields just over 600 total references in the entire body of available scientific literature.) What information do these thousands of studies about cannabis provide us? For starters, they reveal that marijuana and its active constituents, known as cannabinoids, are relatively safe and effective therapeutic and/or recreational compounds. Unlike alcohol and most prescription or over-the-counter medications, cannabinoids are virtually nontoxic to health cells or organs, and they are incapable of causing the user to experience a fatal overdose. Unlike opiates or ethanol, cannabinoids are not classified as central nervous depressants and cannot cause respiratory failure. In fact, a 2008 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Associationreported that cannabis-based drugs were associated with virtually no elevated incidences of serious adverse side-effects in over 30 years of investigative use. Studies further reveal that the marijuana plant contains in excess of 60 active compounds that likely possess distinctive therapeutic properties. One recent review identified some 30 separate therapeutic properties—including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, neuroprotection, and anti-stroke properties—influenced by cannabinoids other than THC. While not all of these effects have been replicated in clinical trials, many have. A recent review by researchers in Germany reported that between 2005 and 2009 there were 37 controlled studies assessing the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids, involving a total of 2,563 subjects. Most recently, a summary of FDA-approved, University of California trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in several hundred subjects concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” By contrast, many legally approved medications are brought to market on the basis of far fewer trials involving far fewer total participants. Finally, we know that Western civilization has been consuming cannabis as both a therapeutic agent and a relaxant for thousands of years with relatively few adverse consequences, either to the individual user or to society. No less than the World Health Organization commissioned a team of experts to compare the health and societal consequences of marijuana use compared to other controlled substances, including alcohol, nicotine and opiates. After quantifying the harms associated with each substance, researchers concluded: “Overall, most of these risks (associated with marijuana) are small to moderate in size. In aggregate they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco. On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.” Does this mean that consuming marijuana is altogether without risk or that scientific investigations shouldn’t continue into the plant’s pharmacology? Of course not. But it is clear that we now know as much, if not more, about pot than we know about the actions of alcohol, tobacco and many prescription pharmaceuticals. And most certainly we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to stop arresting adults who consume it responsibly.
The Year in Pot: Legalization movement catching fire, could expand in 2014
The future of marijuana is lighting up. Two states and the nation of Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2013, and with a majority of Americans favoring legalization, look for 2014 to bring more efforts to take it mainstream. The New York legislature is considering a bill to legalize pot, as are Rhode Island lawmakers. Legalization petitions also are circulating in Alaska and Oregon. California voters likely will consider legalization again in either 2014 or 2016 after rejecting the idea in 2010. Regulation — often billed as “regulation like alcohol” — is key to the legalization efforts, and state and local governments struggled to develop those regulations during the past year. The regulations range from childproof packaging to elaborate application processes and beyond. Retail stores are expected to open in Colorado shortly after the first of the year, though the initial rollout may be limited by regulatory requirements; stores in Washington are expected to open in June. Many of those initial retailers will be grandfathered-in medical marijuana businesses, which typically sell a range of smokeable cannabis, along with oils, edibles and other products. There are the seemingly minor details to be regulated. Can you smoke on the street? No, it’s illegal to smoke in public in both states. What about your front porch? Depends on the city; Denver recently agreed to allow it. Then there are the bigger issues, such as licensing and taxation. One of the attractions for state governments is the ability to tax marijuana products at higher rates than other retail products. Washington will levy a 25 percent excise tax as well as standard sales taxes. That could bring in up to $2 billion in the first five years, the state estimates. Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana products, with some localities tacking on additional taxes. Such heavy levies could keep the medical marijuana industry strong in the two states, since medical users won’t have to pay additional taxes. Almost 112,900 Coloradans had medical cards as of September, with an average age of 41; 67 percent are men. Whether serving medical or recreational customers, the pot business in these two states is about to boom. That business goes beyond the dispensaries that will be the retail face of legal marijuana. There are those who make the infused oils, edible brownies and more. There are lawyers helping businesses navigate the regulatory framework. It wouldn’t be surprising to see big tobacco step into the business through the side door of vapor or electronic cigarettes, which the industry is promoting heavily in the U.S. and Europe. Even agriculture could get a boost from legalization. Colorado recently approved regulations for hemp farming, and seven other states also regulate industrial hemp, which despite low levels of THC is still listed as a Schedule I drug by the federal government. The federal listing of marijuana and even hemp as a controlled substance remains a potential barrier to legalized marijuana. Regulators and cannabis businesses are walking a tightrope to avoid federal violations. The U.S. Justice Department announced in August it wouldn’t sue Colorado or Washington over legalization, but that doesn’t mean the feds will turn a blind eye to criminal activity. In late November, the DEA raided several medical marijuana businesses and grow operations. They arrested a Colombian national on charges of illegal possession of a firearm, but it is unclear how he is related to the marijuana businesses. Last summer, the feds raided some Washington state dispensaries. And because of pot’s illegality at the federal level, banks often won’t deal with marijuana-related businesses. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced a bill in the House earlier this year to legalize marijuana, while a bill by an Oregon representative would levy federal taxes. But those bills are sitting in committees, unlikely to see much attention in the Republican-controlled House. There will, however, be plenty of attention paid to Colorado and Washington in 2014 to see how their legalization efforts turn out. Some Colorado companies hope to lure visitors from other states by promoting pot tourism. And the media is gearing up, too. Denver alternative weekly Westword employed a marijuana critic in 2009 to review and write about the industry. The Denver Post is following suit for the New Year, with a website devoted to cannabis and a newly appointed editor to run the site. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation can follow along in the funny pages, as two Doonesbury characters pursue their potrepreneurial dreams in Colorado.
New York State Legislators Announce Marijuana Legalization Bill
At a press conference this morning, New York Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and state Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced their intent to introduce legislation to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis. Speaking at the press conference, the Assembly bill’s sponsor Rep. Gottfried said, “We really need to move beyond our totally broken prohibition model to a sensible tax and regulate model. I think it’s widely recognized that marijuana is at most nowhere near as potentially harmful as alcohol and our law is dishonest.” Added Sen. Krueger, “I don’t believe a drug that is proven to be less dangerous, from a health perspective, than alcohol or tobacco should be under laws that actually criminalize and ruin lives when alcohol or tobacco are regulated and taxed.” The proposed Assembly and Senate measures would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 2 ounces of dried marijuana, 1/4 ounce of marijuana concentrates, and to cultivate up to 6 plants. The legislation would also establish regulations for state-licensed retail cannabis outlets throughout the state. Retail sales would be limited to adults over the age of 21. New York City Comptroller John Liu estimates that taxing the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually, just in the city alone. According to a 2013 ACLU report, no state arrests more of its citizens for marijuana possession than New York.
Marijuana Compounds Found to ‘Protect Nervous System’ Against MS
Several studies have been conducted focusing on marijuana’s potential to treat and ease symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis – a disease that affects the central nervous system, often causing daily pain and difficulty moving, speaking, and swallowing. A new study adds even more insight into how MS patients can use marijuana, finding that cannabinoids within the vilified healing plant can help treat multiple sclerosis-like diseases by preventing inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, set out to see if the anti-inflammatory compounds in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) could be used to treat the inflammation associated with MS. “Our study looks at how compounds isolated from marijuana can be used to regulate inflammation to protect the nervous system and its functions,” explains Dr. Ewa Kozela. “Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response, but in cases like MS, it gets out of hand.” Using immune cells isolated from paralyzed mice, the researchers used THC or CBD to determine how these compounds affected the production of inflammatory markers, specifically one called interleukin 17 (IL-17). This inflammatory marker is strongly associated with MS and is harmful to nerve cells. “The presence of CBD or THC restrains the immune cells from triggering the production of inflammatory molecules, and limits the molecules’ ability to reach and damage the brain and spinal cord,” wrote the researchers, finding the amount of IL-17 was far fewer in mice treated with the cannabis compounds. This isn’t the first clue that marijuana could hold treatment options for inflammatory conditions. It’s already being used, legally or otherwise, by countless people for the treatment of pain and muscle stiffness associated with inflammation. Likewise, it isn’t the first study looking at the marijuana-MS connection. In 2011, a study found that CBD helps treat MS symptoms in mice by preventing immune cells from attacking nerve cells in the spinal cord. Another study coming to similar conclusions found that: “The study met its primary objective to demonstrate the superiority of CE (cannabis extract) over placebo in the treatment of muscle stiffness in MS. This was supported by results for secondary efficacy variables. Adverse events in participants treated with CE were consistent with the known side effects of cannabinoids. No new safety concerns were observed” Mice suffering from MS-symptoms were treated with CBD and went from being partially paralyzed and immobile to walking with a limp. These mice had less inflammation in their spinal cord than those untreated. Research on CBD is particularly exciting because it offers the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. In other words, when isolated from other compounds in the plant, it won’t get you “high”. Add to this the fact that there are few, if any, known side effects of treating with CBD and this and other studies are extremely promising. “When used wisely, cannabis has huge potential,” Dr Kozela says. “We’re just beginning to understand how it works.”