Sunday, October 21, 2018
A new study shows that many different strains of marijuana have the same tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations, despite their unique street names. The study, conducted by the University of British Columbia at Okanagan, raises questions about how marijuana is marketed to consumers and how informed consumers actually are.
The study, published in Nature’s Scientific Report, examined 33 strains from 5 licensed providers in Canada. The research shows that most strains, regardless of their origin or name, had the same amount of THC and CBD. However, the study found differences in a number of previously unknown cannabinoids in low quantities.
"It is estimated that there are several hundred or perhaps thousands of strains of cannabis currently being cultivated," one of the study’s co-authors, Professor Susan Murch, who teaches chemistry at UBC Okanagan, told ScienMag Science Magazine. She continued, "we wanted to know how different they truly are, given the variety of unique and exotic names."
This study comes at an important time with the legalization of marijuana in Canada and is especially important to consumers who want to be informed when deciding what marijuana strains to purchase. Elizabeth Mudge, co-author of the study and a doctoral student working with Professor Murch explained to ScienMag:
A high abundance compound in a plant, such as THC or CBD, isn't necessarily responsible for the unique medicinal effects of certain strains. Understanding the presence of the low abundance cannabinoids could provide valuable information to the medical cannabis community.
Although the study showed similar amounts of TCH and CBD in various marijuana strains, the different medicinal effects are still touted by producers and sellers. Currently licensed producers are only required to report THC and CBD values, however, Professor Murch believes her new research highlights that the important distinguishing chemicals in cannabis strains are not necessarily being analyzed and may not be fully identified, especially to consumers.
On March 30, 2017, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) introduced S.776, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act.
The bill’s official title is “A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the taxation and regulation of marijuana products, and for other purposes.” The legislation aims to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances and set out requirements for the taxation and regulation of marijuana products.
Specifically, the federal tax code would be amended to impose: (1) an excise tax on any marijuana product produced in or imported into the U.S.; and (2) an occupational tax on marijuana production facilities and export warehouses. The definition of “marijuana product” wouldn’t include industrial hemp or any item containing marijuana that’s been approved by the FDA for sale for therapeutic purposes and is marketed and sold solely for that purpose.
Consequently, the Department of Justice would be required to remove marijuana from all schedules of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The bill appears to have contemplated criticism of legalizing marijuana on a federal level. The legislation would require producers, importers, and exporters of marijuana products to comply with rigorous licensing, recordkeeping, packaging, labeling, and advertising requirements. This would mean there will be greater control over the production and use of marijuana. The bill would establish penalties for violations of marijuana laws, including the prohibition of the sale of more than one ounce of marijuana in any single retail transaction.
Further, S.776 amends the CSA to require penalties for shipping or transporting marijuana into any state or jurisdiction where it’s illegal. Thus, states where cannabis is not legal will be protected from the substance crossing their borders. Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana (either medicinal or recreational), and the trend is towards greater acceptance of the substance.
Roughly six-in-ten Americans (62%) believe the use of marijuana should be legalized—a steady increase over the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This is twice the number that were in favor of legalization in 2000 (31%). And the majorities of younger Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal, including Millennials (74%), Gen Xers (63%), and Baby Boomers (54%). Given these numbers, in addition to the clinical data showing that it can help improve patient quality of life and its potential for revenue and jobs, the proposed legislation has backing among most working adults in the country.
While there are numerous compelling arguments for legalization and the passing of S.776, opponents say there’s also research demonstrating the dangers of marijuana use. A study by Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School found that young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation.
In addition, law enforcement claims that parameters don't exist for determining when someone is under the influence of marijuana. There’s no blood-alcohol content (BAC) test, which makes enforcement worrisome. Critics also point to the fact that THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, can stay in the bloodstream for days or weeks. As such, getting an accurate reading of impairment, and determining when marijuana was used, would entail some guesswork.
Potential Implications for the Cannabis Industry
As mentioned above, passage of S.776 would have a positive economic impact for the cannabis industry. For example, researchers in Colorado found that their taxed and regulated cannabis industry contributed more than $58 million to the local economy. Opponents are quick to point out that there was about $23 million in added costs to legalization, such as law enforcement and social services. However, the researchers at Colorado State University-Pueblo found that the county still wound up with a net positive impact of more than $35 million. The university’s report examined trends in revenue, construction, marijuana use, homelessness, crime, environmental impact, and other topics and found little conclusive evidence to support claims that marijuana legalization has caused widespread social change in the county.
Also, a national study in January found that legalizing marijuana across the country would create at least $132 billion in tax revenue and more than a million new jobs across the United States in the next decade. New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm that sponsored the study, said that the marijuana industry could create an “entirely new tax revenue stream for the government,” with millions of dollars in sales tax and payroll deductions.
The momentum certainly appears to be moving towards widespread legalization of marijuana at the federal level.
Another bill, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, with bipartisan support. would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to partner with other federal and state government agencies to study "the effects of State legalized marijuana programs on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment." If enacted, the National Academy of Sciences would conduct the research and publish its findings within 18-months.
However, none of the several bills recently introduced in Congress, including S.776, are given more than a 3% chance of passage into law by Govtrack. Whether the push towards adoption of bills such as these once Congress reconvenes after the mid-term elections remains to be seen.
Spearheaded by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and California Rep. Barbara Lee, the Marijuana Justice Act is attempting to set the foundation, on a congressional level, for what equitable and progressive marijuana legalization should look like.
The Senate Bill, S. 1689, was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on August 1, 2017, during the 1st Session of the 115th United States Congress. In January of this year, an identical bill was presented to the House of Representatives during the 2d Session, titled H.R. 4815, by California Representative Barbara Lee. Although the proposals have not yet garnered traction within Congress, the bills mark a progressive attitude towards legalization.
Senate Bill 1689 and House Bill 4815, both named the "Marijuana Justice Act", are a pair of identical Congressional bills that center marijuana legalization around criminal justice reform, accountability, and community reinvestment, and they represent the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The Marijuana Justice Act, if enacted, would:
- Remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis;
- Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests by:
- Cutting federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses and;
- Allowing entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses;
- Provide a process for expungement of federal convictions specific to marijuana possession;
- Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations the right to petition the court for resentencing;
- Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.
A Bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes.
The stated purpose of the Act is to de-schedule marijuana, apportion funds, and create a “Community Reinvestment Fund”.
Section 1. Short Title
Both bills began with their titles, with the Senate bill stating: This Act may be cited as the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. The House bill has identical language, with the only amendment being the change of the date from 2017 to 2018 when the House bill was introduced.
Section 2. De-Scheduling Marihuana
This section serves as the cornerstone for the legalization aspect of the Act.
For context, the Controlled Substances Act is the federal drug policy that places all regulated substances into one of five schedules based on the potential for abuse, current accepted medical use, and degree of physical or psychological dependence resulting from abuse of the drug.
As quoted in the CSA, the finding for Schedule I drugs include that:
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Section 2 (a) of the Marijuana Justice Act is titled "Marijuana Removed from Schedule of Controlled Substances." The purpose of this section is to de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by striking the terms "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols", and re-designating subparagraphs within §202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812). 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (10) and 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (17) force cannabis-related substances "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols," respectively, into schedule 1 regulated substances; therefore, by striking the terms as mentioned above, they would no longer be listed as schedule 1 substances under federal law.
Section 2 (b) of the Act, captioned “Removal of Prohibition on Import and Export”—§1010 (b) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C 960) strikes the language that penalizes:
Any person who -
- (1) … knowingly or intentionally imports or exports a controlled substance,
- (2) … knowingly or intentionally brings or possesses on board a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle a controlled substance, or
- (3) … manufactures, possesses with intent to distribute, or distributes … a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana.
Additionally, the Act would conform the following amendments to the Controlled Substances Act by striking variations of the term "marihuana" and restructuring the designations of paragraphs and subparagraphs within:
21 U.S.C. 802 (44) – Definitions
21 U.S.C. 841 (b) – Prohibited Acts, penalties
21 U.S.C. 842 (c) (2) (B) – Prohibited Acts, penalties with prior convictions
21 U.S.C. 843 (d) (1) – Prohibited Acts, penalties and terms of imprisonment
21 U.S.C. 859 (a) – Distribution to persons under age twenty-one, first offense
21 U.S.C. 860 (a) – Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools and colleges, penalties
21 U.S.C. 863 (d) – “Drug Paraphernalia” defined
21 U.S.C. 886 (d) – Payments and advances, Drug Pollution Fund
The last measure of de-scheduling marijuana would amend the National Forest System Drug Control Act of 1986 by striking the terms "marijuana and other" and "marihuana" from the act.
Section 3. Ineligibility for Certain Funds
Although this section is titled, “Ineligibility for Certain Funds” the section also provides guidelines for expungement and sentencing review.
Section 3 (a) provides definitions for terms such as “covered state,” “disproportionate arrest rate,” “low-income individual,” and several other terms cited throughout the section.
Section 3 (b) details the considerations for distributing Federal funding to states. Under the Act, if a state is determined to have a disproportionate arrest or incarceration rate for marijuana offenses, they will be deemed ineligible to receive federal funds to staff or construct a prison or jail. However, covered states will not be subject to more than a 10% reduction of funds that would otherwise go to law enforcement assistance programs, block grants, and justice assistance grant programs. Additionally, any funds not awarded to covered states will be deposited into the Community Reinvestment Fund.
Section 3 (c) requires that each Federal court issue an expunction for marijuana use or possession offenses that resulted in a conviction. Subsection (d) provides for sentencing review and states that individuals who have been sentenced and imprisoned have the right to motion the court to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lastly, subsection (e) allows individuals who have been aggrieved by the disproportionate arrest or incarcerations rate the right to bring a civil action in appropriate district courts.
Section 4. Community Reinvestment Fund
The final section of the Marijuana Justice Act establishes a "Community Reinvestment Fund" within the United States Treasury. According to the bill, deposits to the Fund will consist of funds not awarded to covered states, states that have not enacted a statute legalizing marijuana, because they have disproportionate arrest and/or incarceration rates for marijuana offenses in addition to amounts otherwise appropriated to the Fund.
Section 4 (c) outlines the uses for the funds; making them available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs by funding job training, re-entry services, community centers, and other programs and opportunities. The Act concludes by authorizing $500,000,000 to be appropriated to the Fund for each fiscal year from 2018 – 2040.
The Marijuana Justice Act is rooted in social justice and community development. While the objectives of the Act are noble and progressive, perhaps the Act is attempting to tackle too many issues at once. There has been vocalized support for federal legalization, making Section 2 of the Act the most accessible.
Additionally, expunction efforts for marijuana-related crimes have been a topic of discussion on both the West and East coasts. However, there is a likelihood that courts will get overloaded by individuals who desire to bring civil suits. In regards to the Community Reinvestment Fund, the introduction of the fund would be groundbreaking; however, it is important to realistically consider the logistics and operations of the fund, as there would need to be continuous data-collections and attention to the appropriations on a federal level. If the Act were to be passed in its entirety, it would be a victory for communities impacted by the war on drugs and individuals who have been negatively affected by the implicitly discriminatory enforcement of current marijuana laws.
In an article in Medical Xpress, HealthDay News reporter Dennis Thompson discusses the possible benefits of using medical marijuana to quell multiple sclerosis symptoms.
The impetus for the article was a major new evidence review of cannabis-derived drugs. The review combined seventeen clinical trials involving 3,161 patients. Based on patient self-assessments, researchers found that cannabis-derived drugs were associated with a mild reduction in muscle contractions, bladder dysfunction, and pain.
Multiple sclerosis, a progressive and degenerative disease in which the immune system attacks nerves, produces a variety of symptoms, including muscle contractions. Thus, trial researchers concluded that cannabis-derived drugs could have "limited effectiveness in treating multiple sclerosis symptoms."
"The clinical trials also showed that cannabis-derived drugs come with few side effects, [but] no serious ones," noted Dr. Marissa Slaven, an assistant professor of palliative care at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Side effects included dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, intoxication, impaired balance, memory problems and sleepiness.
However, patients' self-reports differed from the results of objective tests used by doctors in the trials. Doctors could not find any objective evidence to confirm self-reports that medical marijuana soothed symptoms typical of multiple sclerosis. This is troubling according to Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of healthcare delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "There's really relatively little data that's strong. I think that discourages practitioners from feeling comfortable about recommending this . . . ."
Thus, while the results from the new evidence review are unclear, "the upshot . . . is that more research is needed to nail down medical marijuana's ability to help those with multiple sclerosis." Unfortunately, Thompson notes that research on medial marijuana has been stymied in the United States due to federal restrictions.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Weed businesses may soon be able to bank legally in the United States, according to the prediction of the CEO of Canopy Growth, Bruce Linton.
This would mean cannabis business owners would no longer have to rely on cash-only business models or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and would be able to get loans far more conveniently.
The prediction apparently came from a conference for cannabis businesses, according to the Forbes article by contributor Sara Brittany Somerset.
Somerset explained in the article that Linton's prediction was due to a sequence of events indicating that established structures may support legal cannabis banking.
Linton expressed confidence that since his cannabis company infiltrated the New York Stock Exchange –although they were not allowed to ring or even touch the opening bell– that banking will naturally follow suit.
Linton elucidates that being listed on the exchange validates the company's adherence to anti-money laundering rules, which in turn meant that about a month ago, Bank of America could lend Constellation Brands Inc. -the company behind Corona beer -about CAD five million to give to him. Canopy Growth's game-changing deal with the producers of Corona has more than doubled the pot producer's stock price. Linton, however, attributes Canopy's sky-high valuation to the global medical marijuana market.
Either way, Linton is confident that this sequence of events provides enough "momentum and weight to cause the banking conundrum to be resolved soon."
The CEO also used the conference to talk about a "port-a-potty theory" involving the impacts of locally sourced resources, according to Somerset's article.
Linton admits he is "nuts about" his port-a-potty theory, and views it as the cornerstone of local economic stimulation. He insists it creates a snowball effect. "We have almost two thousand employees and they all know what the rules are about renting port-a-potties locally," he insists.
His theory is if he wants to hire Ph.D.s in a local town, he has to purchase port-a-potties for his construction sites locally, so that the port-a-potty vendor will take his new-found extra income and go out for dinner more often, which will, in turn, create better restaurants, then the local car dealerships will improve. Next, the houses will transition, so that when his Ph.D. hires begin to work there, they won't say, “God, what an awful town."
The article's writer seemed unimpressed with other aspects of Linton's speech, such as a "white-washed, non-diversified video commercial for Canopy Growth" and the reaction to his "gentrification ideals" being "stunned, stony silence from the audience and incredulous side-eye from the few Jamaicans in attendance."
As for Linton's prediction of legal banking by Christmas, only time will tell whether it proves accurate.
-- Alex Bennett
The move to legalize cannabis in Canada comes into effect on October 17th, but it is estimated that suppliers will not have enough weed to meet demand.
While a recent survey conducted by Statistics Canada shows that the number of Canadian cannabis users is not expected to rise significantly, Statistics Canada's National Cannabis Survey, 3rd quarter 2018, reveals that some 4.6 million Canadians or 15% of the population has used cannabis just in the past 3 months.
According to MetroUK: Researchers from the University of Waterloo and the C.D. Howe Institute say suppliers will only be able to fulfill between 30-60% of demand. According to them, the legal cannabis supply is expected to be around 210 tonnes while total demand in the country will be about 610 tonnes.
One of the main reasons for the lack of cannabis is that the Canadian government seems to be dragging its feet in granting licenses to suppliers. This could cause quite a loss, as MetroUK reports: "[This] means the government will be losing out on an estimated $774,000,000 (£454,000,000) in tax revenues."
A key question was raised by citizens last month in a listening session with New York Gov. Cuomo, "What happens to the medical program if recreational marijuana is legalized?" Local politicians were not able to give an answer. There will probably be some discrepancies, but according to a recent article in City and State New York, local experts and precedent suggest it may not be as big of an issue as many suspect.
The article claimed that medical marijuana patients and doctors are hoping that the price of medical marijuana will fall due to increased supply. It interviewed Dr. Kenneth Weinberg with Cannabis Doctors of New York, a group of doctors who certify patients and offer consultations, who said, "One of the major roadblocks is that people can’t get the cannabis. I have a number of patients who I will certify and then will call back and they’ll say … ‘I went in and it was so expensive, I couldn’t keep doing it.'"
The article also claims that recreational marijuana would not be a replacement for many medical marijuana placements. Dr Weinberg advised:
Many patients would still benefit from consultations with doctors who can recommend the best course of action for people, many of whom have exhausted other treatment options. Most of the patients he sees have no interest in the recreational products they could buy if New York legalizes recreational marijuana. The majority of the people who come in specifically ask me – they want to make sure they don’t get high.
The article does mention that there are some potential challenges if both the current medical and proposed recreational programs go forward. For example, it states:
Under the New York state’s existing medical marijuana program, patients are not allowed to grow their own cannabis, but new regulations could still come into conflict with existing ones. Perhaps the most immediate issue would be the type of cannabis one can buy and use. Medical marijuana is limited to nonflowering cannabis – that is, it cannot be smoked. Patients must consume it through vaporization, oil, pills or other nonsmoking methods. Under legislation previously introduced in the state Legislature to legalize and tax cannabis, there would be no restrictions on the method of use.
The article points out an additional discrepancy between the age restrictions of the two different programs. The current medical program allows patients as young as 18, but most proposals for recreational marijuana set the age at 21, the same as alcohol. "This raises the question about the legality of 18- to 20-year-olds who possess medical marijuana, and which law would apply."
However, the author suggests that legislatures may be looking to Colorado precedent for guidance. Colorado implemented its recreational program in 2014 without making any changes to its medical program. In Colorado, this was mostly out of necessity because the medical program was created by a state constitutional amendment which would have been very hard to change. The author interviewed Michael Van Dyke, who oversees marijuana programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He said:
The new recreational market had little effect on the medical marijuana program, and the state did not see a significant drop in medical marijuana cardholders. Those certified with the program were able to continue buying their products, which are set at a lower tax rate than recreational products.
This may be reassuring to New York legislatures who are feeling pressure to figure out if they should change the existing medical marijuana program "Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the bill that created the state’s medical marijuana program in 2014, said that he has had conversations with the governor’s office about the issue, but that they have not come to any conclusions. 'Several of us in the Legislature are in close consultation with the governor’s people,' said Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee. 'So how we do that, I don’t know yet. But I know there is a lot of concern and brainpower being focused on it.'"
On October 17 Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana allowing Canadians to grow, possess, and consume marijuana recreationally. Canada expects the legalization of recreational marijuana to boost their economy, but the laws surrounding marijuana are left up to each province's experimentation. Inquirer.net reports:
... legalization is expected to boost the Canadian economy, generating $816 million to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter without taking into account the black market, which is expected to account for a quarter of all joints smoked in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
A $400 million tax revenue windfall is forecast as a result, with the provinces, municipalities and federal government all getting a slice.
In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis in legal dispensaries in 2018, about 15 percent of the population. 4.9 million already smoke.
Inquirer.net states that by legalizing marijuana, the Canadian federal government overturns the marijuana ban that had been in place since 1923. The federal government left the task of creating laws to regulate legal marijuana up to the individual provinces. Hence, the world gets to sit back and watch to see which province's experimental regulations work the best. The article further reports:
Several [provinces] have already said they will not fully implement the law.
For example, even though federal law will permit each household to grow up to four cannabis plants, central Manitoba and Quebec in the east say they will ban it and go all the way to the Supreme Court over the matter.
Like with alcohol and tobacco, the question of legal age also falls to the provinces. Nineteen seems to be the standard, but it is 18 in Alberta, while Quebec, whose new government will enter office the day after legalization, wants to raise the age to 21.
With regards to sales, some provinces such as Quebec will implement a public monopoly while others, including Ontario and Nova Scotia, have decided to trust the market to the private sector.
As for law enforcement, federal police will be ordered to abstain for 28 days before working, as will police in Toronto.
Officers in Montreal, however, are simply asked to not show up to work high.
Another issue for the provinces to mull over is open consumption, with Montreal deciding to impose the same rules as those for tobacco, while people in other provinces will have to light up at home.
Legalizing marijuana clearly leads to many new problems, but with each province able to conduct their own experiment concerning the laws surrounding legalization, perhaps these experiments will lead to a structure the rest of the world can implement when moving towards a greener future.
Marijuana users across the country are finding alternative methods to smoking cannabis. According to a recent article by USA Today, retailers are reporting that consumers are increasingly switching from smokable marijuana to other forms, including pot-infused foods known as edibles.
In an effort to capitalize on this shift in consumption, Issac Lapert decided to mix his experience in the ice cream industry with the marijuana market. In an interview with International Business Times, Lappert delved in to some of the details of his newest venture--Cannabis Creamery. The legal, non-profit collective has been supplying to marijuana dispensaries in California for the past year and a half. Cannabis Creamery's Facebook explains that each pre-packaged, 4 ounce cup contains 60 milligrams of THC, with flavors ranging from mint chip and Kona Coffee to passion fruit sorbet. EdiblesList also points out that these sweets are vegan-friendly and GMO-free.
Lappert told IBTimes that around 90 percent of his customers are recreational users -- and around 10 percent eat the stuff for medicinal purposes.
"I know someone who has an eating disorder, and it helps her with her appetite," Lappert said. "And my aunt is recovering from chemo, and the ice cream hits fast, and goes down easy." He adds, "For someone inexperienced with pot, 60 milligrams is a lot. Edibles affect different people in a different way. Because THC binds to fat cells, it can affect people differently depending on what they weigh, in the same way alcohol does."
As marijuana users continue to experiment with smoking-alternatives, joints and bongs may become a method of the past--and edibles could quickly become the most popular option across the cannabis market.
Friday, October 19, 2018
Two prominent Oklahoma hospitals have instructed their physicians to not make recommendations for medical cannabis under the state's new MMJ law, according to a recent article in Tulsa World. The private Tulsa-based Saint Francis Health System and the public Oklahoma State University Medical Center are turning away requests for cannabis recommendations from their primary care providers.
These hospitals are doing a disservice to their patients and should reconsider their decisions. Patients should not be blocked from using these treatments because of antiquated laws and outdated perceptions of the substance.
Cannabis Illegal and of No Therapeutic Value, Health Systems Say
A Saint Francis spokeswoman has said that hospital rules require physicians to follow federal law, which considers marijuana a prohibited Schedule 1 drug. She explained in a statement:
Warren Clinic’s provider contracts and our hospitals’ bylaws require that physicians follow both state and federal laws governing the practice of medicine … To this end, Warren Clinic physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.
For its part, OSU Medical Center pointed out that its decision was based on the lack of evidence that any of the Schedule 1 drugs on the federal list have therapeutic value.
“Schedule I drugs lack clinical evidence for therapeutic purposes,” a statement from OSU Medical Center reads. “To this end, OSUMC physicians and providers are not able to endorse or promote the use of cannabis with their patients.”
True, marijuana is still illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug. However, there is a move in many states to approve recreational marijuana (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada), as well as and medical marijuana use (Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas). There are now eight states where individuals can purchase marijuana for recreational use and 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is legal under state law.
Hospitals are exposed to a significant risk for allowing cannabis use by patients as cannabis continues to be illegal under federal law. This is because hospitals receive their accreditation from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These facilities also receive federal funds which may be vital to their ability to operate and provide services.
This threat may be perceived as real—especially since U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he will enforce federal law as it pertains to marijuana. Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo by the Obama administration that instructed federal attorneys not to hinder states’ ability to legalize marijuana, provided state officials prevented the drug from migrating to places where it remained outlawed, such as federal property, and kept it away from criminal gangs and children. This will allow U.S. attorneys throughout the country to decide whether to devote federal resources to marijuana enforcement based on their district’s priorities. Hospitals are reticent to risk penalties and the loss of federal funding by prescribing or providing the drug in their facilities.
But with more states approving the use of marijuana, hospitals are frequently being asked to allow patients to bring in their own supply for their own use. These hospitals have created their own inpatient medical marijuana policies. To help standardize this, the Minnesota Hospital Association has created a set of policy templates. These policies may help to insulate the hospital and its staff from the threat of federal prosecution, and permit patients to use a drug that has proven to be effective in their treatment.
Healthcare providers such as Saint Francis should implement similar policies that help to reduce liability without sacrificing patient care. Yes, there are potential legal implications for such an approach -- but the likelihood they will be targeted for prosecution is low, while the likely improved patient outcomes are high.
The benefits of medical marijuana have been proven. Patients report many benefits of CBD or cannabidiol—the chemical found in marijuana plants. This includes relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain, as well as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy. In fact, one form of childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, is nearly impossible to control; however, it has been found to respond dramatically to a CBD-dominant strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web.
Those suffering from debilitating illnesses should not be denied access to treatments that can help them, whether it is to ease their pain or to find a cure. Medical research in the past 20 years has uncovered substantial data about the benefits of medical marijuana and the chemicals found in cannabis. Further, hospitals are warranted in putting their federal funding at risk in order to prescribe marijuana in the interest of improved patient care and outcomes.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has released a list of close to 40 physicians across the state who have registered as providers willing to recommend medical marijuana for patients. The agency said it released the list “as a courtesy” to potential applicants whose own physicians may be unwilling to sign a recommendation. But patients of St. Francis and OSU deserve to get this badly needed medicine from their own providers.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Doctors in Britain can start writing cannabis prescriptions in less than a month. The motivation for the government to quickly legalize medical use came from two cases of sick children whose suffering was eased by cannabis. Both kids have life-threatening epileptic seizures and are successfully managing their diseases with cannabis. The New York Times reports:
The change was announced on Thursday by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, after he called for an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products over the summer, and his office said in July it had decided that “senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need.”
Mr. Javid said on Thursday, “Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.”
The home secretary commissioned the review after the cannabis-based medicine of Billy Caldwell, 12, who has life-threatening epileptic seizures, was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on June 11. The case was publicized in the British news media and prompted a national discussion on the legalization of medicinal cannabis products.
Ms. Caldwell, the young boy's mother, spoke praise of the Home Secretary for the "swift movements" on behalf of her son and others. The whole process, from Mr. Caldwell's case to approval of medicinal cannabis took about four months. The Home Secretary clarified that general practitioners will not be authorized to write cannabis scripts, but specialized doctors will have discretion to give patients who have exhausted other options access to medical cannabis. This change adds the U.K. to a growing list of states and countries that have legalized medical cannabis use.
--Manda Mosley Maier
New research suggests that marijuana usage may damage sperm count, according to a story in the Daily Mail. Researcher Omer Raheem compared the findings of marijuana users, former marijuana users, and men who never used marijuana. His results found that,
[T]hose who had ever used the drug had poorer semen quality than those who hadn’t.
The team saw damage on all fronts – decreased volume, morphology (the shape), and total progressive motile count (how many sperm can actually move).
Men who had smoked marijuana also had higher risks of abnormally shaped sperm, which can hamper its attempts to enter an egg.
Cannabis use is booming both in recreational use and in medical use which is exciting but also reason to be skeptical. The drug is now legal in more than half of the United States for medical use, and nine for recreational use. And yet, science is still racing to catch up with legalization, and the true benefits and down sides are still coming to light.
Cannabis is understudied so a lot of the effects of long-term and heavy usage are unknown in the scientific community. Dr. Raheem think that doctors should use studies such as these to warn their patients about possible "negative' effects".
-Fernando Lira Gomez
Broadcasters should not rely on the fact that prosecutors have previously focused on the advertiser of the business, not the advertising medium, according to a lawyer who represents broadcasters.
Many broadcasters in states where marijuana is legal have accepted the business of both growers and dealers who have sought to advertise their products and services. Since rescission of the Cole Memorandum, which de-prioritized enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition against people and businesses who complied with state law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions went a step further by directing all U.S. Attorneys to pursue prosecutions related to marijuana activities.
Lawyer Gregg Skall represents broadcasters and other parties in their regulatory dealings before the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") and in their commercial business dealings. A few months after the release of the Cole Memorandum, Skall notes:
[W]hen dealing with criminal law, special considerations come into the analysis. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 2 provides that whoever aids or abets the commission of a crime is punishable as a principal. The DOJ Criminal Resources Manual states that acts of the perpetrator become the acts of the aider and abettor and the latter can be charged with having done the acts even when the principal is not tried, convicted or even identified. Therefore, while it is extremely rare for a publisher to be tried for the crime of an author or advertiser, the situation surrounding marijuana use might prove to be so high-profile and controversial that an aggressive U.S. attorney might consider prosecuting the advertising medium.
Skall's current view is that broadcasters who accept the business of growers and dealers are in danger of losing their federal licenses. Those inclined to think there is a First Amendment right to advertise marijuana products and services should, he warns, think again. Broadcasters cannot rely on the First Amendment when advertising products or services that are illegal under federal law.
States have sought to advertise their products and services with broadcasters, and many have accepted their business. That decision, however, has always been risky, given the uncertain effect of the Cole Memorandum and its many qualification requirements. Marijuana remains classified as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and in a case called Raich v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even in states with compassionate use laws. Some broadcasters took comfort in the fact that prosecutions have nearly always been of the advertiser business and not the advertising medium. Yet, as I have written before, taking cannabis advertising is at most a calculated bet and that bet just got a lot worse."
iven the current administration's views on marijuana and the Attorney General's direction to U.S. Attorneys to pursue prosecutions related to marijuana activities, the bottom line is that broadcasters should not accept cannabis advertising until there is further clarification or Congress acts to reverse the effect of the decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum. Skall further warns that, "[A]s federal licensees, a broadcast licensee could very well endanger their license renewal, or even risk license revocation and criminal prosecution . . ."
Obtaining a license from the FCC is no small feat. Broadcasters that have paid fees, submitted applications, and complied with specific FCC licensing requirements may not want to risk their business for the sake of an advertising slot purchased by a business that is illegal under federal law.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
An Israeli study showed improvement in 96% of PTSD patients who used medical cannabis, but American veterans who struggle with PTSD or chronic pain from service may have a hard time accessing medical cannabis according to a recent article in Forbes. The article explains,
"While cannabis is legal in two-thirds of the states, it is still classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule 1 drug, which, by definition, is supposed to be reserved only for those drugs with no currently accepted medical use (for example, heroin is listed in Schedule I, while cocaine is listed in Schedule II). Therefore, VA [Veterans Affairs] is currently prohibited by law from prescribing cannabis and insurance does not cover it as a medical treatment option. Thus, a veteran choosing cannabis over opioids could spend thousands of dollars annually."
The article goes on to explain that VA medical facilities opt for a cocktail of painkillers that are contributing to the growing opioid crisis. "U.S. Veterans are twice as likely to die of overdose as civilians. Many veterans would prefer to treat their pain with cannabis rather than with addictive opioids — 92% of veterans and their caregivers support medical research and 82% favor legalizing medical cannabis, according to an American Legion survey."
In addition to the extra cost of medical cannabis for veterans, the article notes that those interested in working in the new legal industry may also face extra hurdles. The author explains,
"For example, one of my employees received a letter from the U.S. Army stating that his benefits are under review and may be revoked merely because he is working for a firm engaged in cannabis-related activities (which are legal in the states in which we operate) — something the Army says breaks the morality clause in reserve contracts and could cause potential disrepute to the military."
There is a bill circulating that may offer hope to veterans interested in medical cannabis or working in the legal industry.
"Congress is taking some baby steps with the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which would authorize the VA to research the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis for treating PTSD and chronic pain. If researchers can prove the clinical benefits of cannabis for veterans, it could remove whatever objections certain lawmakers have to something that’s increasingly accepted by veterans and the majority of Americans. The bill has rare bipartisan support and recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. The final step now needs to be taken. Both chambers of Congress need to approve the bill to make it a law."
In the meantime, veterans that could greatly benefit from medical marijuana will have to wait on Congress.
Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams has announced that the city is considering taxing medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, retail businesses, and public consumption lounges to subsidize Phoenix police and fire departments. "The idea is to tax medical [marijuana] to help fund public safety."
Courtney Griffin discussed the issue with Phoenix residents in an article with Phoenix's Fox10. Griffin found that residents support Mayor William's desire to increase public safety, but feel that there is a better way to achieve that goal.
Small business owners in the marijuana industry feel that "[they] shouldn't carry the whole burden." For example, Lilach Power, owner of Giving Tree Wellness, argues that increased public safety cannot be funded by small business owners alone as the cost would force them to leave Phoenix or charge patients higher prices for medical marijuana.
"We are going to have to roll it on 178,000 patients in the whole state to cover for this. Some cultivation will just leave the city. Patients will go to other cities because it's going to be cheaper," Power said.
Griffin described a letter from Mayor Williams to the Phoenix city manager that stated that the proposed "occupational license tax would cost $50 per square foot for cultivation sites and $280 per square foot used for retail or public consumption space." Other options are to collect 17% of a business's gross income from the previous 12 months or a flat rate tax. Currently, Phoenix medical marijuana dispensaries are only asked to pay sales tax of 2.3% on their retail sales.
Mayor Williams' proposal will be presented to the city council on Tuesday. Small business owners in the marijuana industry plan to attend the meeting.
A Manhattan based investment firm, Merida, has invested $50 million in 17 companies related to cannabis in less than two years. According to a Forbes article by contributor Julie Weed, the firm's owner Mitch Baruchowitz says his company invests in the "boring" parts of the cannabis industry.
That includes any technology or equipment related to cannabis that gets widely used like laboratory testing services, compliance and data collection software, production equipment, and packaging. “There is a lot of traction in lab testing,” Baruchowitz said for example, “because it’s part of the supply chain, so everyone needs it and you can’t get around it.”
Weed writes that Baruchowitz's methods for choosing companies to invest in include analysis of company management and potential for growth.
The first question is always: how big can sales get? “We look for products that have large potential markets,” Baruchowitz said. “We don’t want a small brand or niche product that might not grow at the rate the market grows.” The national market is expanding “so we want something that will grow along with overall industry increases.”
The article also mentions that family wealth offices are starting to invest in cannabis as a higher growth, higher risk investment.
Stock prices of the publicly traded KushCo Holdings and GrowGeneration are both up from their launch. KushCo launch January 2016 at $2 per share and has recently been trading at over $5 per hare. GrowGeneration launched in November 2016 and ended its first day of trading at $2.30. It recently traded at $5.30. Most of the investment and return information is not shared because the company is privately held.
This article seems to demonstrate that the growth of the cannabis industry is not limited to just distributors and dispensaries.
Companies in charge of packaging, research, and compliance validation are also part of this, and may continue to grow along with the rest of the market.
-- Alex Bennett
Florida Department of Health Just Approved the State's First Online Medical Cannabis Shopping Portal
I n an era where nearly everything can be purchased online, Liberty Health Sciences Inc. and Alternate Heath Corp. paired up to created FlorPass--Florida's first approved e-commerce for medical cannabis. According to a recent article by Yahoo! Finance, FlorPass is transforming how patients shop for their cannabis products.
"As the only medical cannabis e-commerce system approved by the Florida Department of Health, we have established an innovative model with the ability to capture the statewide market for digital cannabis transactions," says Dr. Michael Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Alternate Health.
Currently, the FlorPass online portal is available to certified patients in St. Petersburg and Tampa. But there are plans to expand to additional locations before the end of this month.
"This is not only a functional way to do transactions, FlorPass will help us grow our business by building better relationships with our patients and enhance overall patient satisfaction. We will continue to invest in state-of-the-art technology to support the development of our products and remain committed to providing guidance and continued care throughout the entire patient experience," said George Scorsis , CEO of Liberty Health Sciences.
In 2017, the FlorPass Electronic Medical Records platform launched in clinics and doctor's offices throughout Florida. FlorPass received strong support from the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA) which allowed Alternate Health to rapidly onboard new physicians, clinics and patients. FlorPass currently has over 7,500 patients registered in their system.
The strong support from large players in the medical cannabis industry coupled with the convenience factor of having products available to patients online could mean a shift in the way we see other companies approach sales.
With almost half of all U.S. states having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, one would think that marijuana-related arrest rates in the U.S. would be decreasing. Not so, according to new data released by the FBI last week. Forbes.com has the story:
There is now an average of one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds, according to a new FBI report released on Monday. The increase in marijuana arrests—659,700 in 2017, compared to 653,249 in 2016—is driven by enforcement against people merely possessing the drug as opposed to selling or growing it, the data shows.
Last year, there were 599,282 marijuana possession arrests in the country, up from 587,516 in 2016. Meanwhile, busts for cannabis sales and manufacturing dropped, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.
"At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero," Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in an interview.
"Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality," added NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives."
Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.
Marijuana-related arrests rates have historically been a major topic of debate in U.S. marijuana policy. Advocates of legalization argue that the drug is harmless, citing the lack of reported overdoses normally associated with drug use, and that legalization would actually decrease the amount of illegal drug trade that can result in violence. They state that it is unfair to group persons in possession of marijuana together with violent offenders, and that it fills our prisons with non-violent offenders, effectively ruining lives over possession of a substance that has not been found to cause physical harm of any kind.
Meanwhile, supporters of the status quo cite the unknown–and possibly unknowable–health risks associated with marijuana, including possible damage to the hippocampus, which is responsible for short and long term memory. Additionally, supporters of marijuana's current criminal status argue that it is difficult to police marijuana intoxication and that more widespread use will result in more traffic fatalities. Finally, some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, and legalizing it will not only create new weed smokers, but will also create a morality vacuum in which young people may believe that other drugs are not as harmful as they have been made out to be and begin venturing into the world of casual drug use.
For the time being, these statistics suggest that marijuana use and possession are increasing, even in states where the drug has not yet been legalized. This inherently means that the illegal drug trade is still alive and well, possibly vindicating the position of those that are in favor of federal legalization or decriminalization. However, some data has shown that even in states where marijuana has been legalized, foreign cartels are still able to sell the drug to customers, indicating that even full legalization may not be a cure to illegal marijuana trafficking. Regardless, there is a sharp outcry against the current harsh penalties for marijuana possession, and these new FBI statistics indicate that the problem is only getting worse.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
With a flash of a Medical Marijuana Card, people could be bringing home lasagna infused with cannabis oil or bringing infused blueberry muffins to breakfast thanks to the very first cannabis kitchen, Mint Kitchen.
With shows on Netflix like Bong Appetit, edibles are moving from the space brownie to your grandmother's lasagna. This idea will debut in Tempe, Arizona on Oct. 5th and it will be the trial run for any kitchens in the future. In order for Mint Kitchen to run, it had to obtain a dispensary license, and then it had to go through an inspection run by the Arizona Department of Health Services. This is unchartered territory. Dispensaries have been selling pre-packaged edibles but this kitchen aims to elevate the standard of edibles to beyond baked goods and gummy bears. They were given a 9 month approval after the inspection.
The food will not be one dose across the board, the customer can pick the dosage in their food to go best with their treatment plan with doses starting at 10mg. The food will also have to be consumed off premises and will all be packaged for to-go. This type of access could beg the question of safety and the dangers of people taking this cannabis infused food and doing with it what they will. Those fears have existed with cigarettes and alcohol and maybe we will see similar measures taken, but this is the first kitchen of its kind and there will be bumps on the road.
The owners and chefs want to reach out the public and open the door to exploring cannabis and how it can interact with food. They are going to offer free cooking classes to those with medical marijuana cards, but they will have to register ahead of time. Mint Kitchen will offer a variety of foods from burgers to gelato, enough to satisfy anyone's cravings.
A recently published study shows that most teens who have tried marijuana have used it in more than one form, including smoking, eating, and vaping. The study, conducted by the University of Southern California Health, Emotion, and Addiction Laboratory, raises concerns about adolescent health amid a surging marijuana market according to the University’s recent press release.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, surveyed of 3,177 10th-graders from the Los Angeles area via questionnaires at 10 Los Angeles area high schools from January to October 2015, three years before California legalized marijuana. Of the 33.9 percent of students who reported ever using marijuana, smoking it was the most popular, followed by marijuana products that were vaporized or edible.
The study also found that most 10th-graders (61.7 percent) who had ever used cannabis used multiple products to administer the drug. Since the study occurred before marijuana was legalized in California in 2018, the results raise new questions about adolescent use today.
“A key question is whether a new pool of teens who’ve traditionally been at lower risk for smoking marijuana have been drawn to using the drug in these alternative non-smoked forms,” the study’s senior author, Adam Leventhal, professor of preventive medicine and psychology and director of the USC Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine of USC told the press.
The legalization of marijuana has given rise to new products offering new ways to ingest and consume the drug. Additionally, legalization has caused a perception change amongst teens, according to Leventhal:
In recent years, there’s been a shift in teens’ perception. Legalization and commercialization of cannabis are fostering the perception that this drug is not harmful. On my drive to work, I pass an advertising billboard for marijuana delivery right to your house. Marijuana has gone mainstream.
Leventhal believes that the study's results raise new concerns about adolescent health today, given the wide variety of products offered and the change in perception due to the legalization of marijuana,. “Cannabis use in adolescence increases risk for chronic use throughout adulthood, addiction and impaired cognitive development, ” Levnthal told the USC press. The study results raise new questions about the health effects of when marijuana goes mainstream.
– Colin Heinrich