Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Head of Veterans Affairs acknowledges marijuana may be "helpful" to veterans

This notable new article from The Hill reports on notable new comments by the head of the federal Veterans Affairs department.  The piece is headlined "VA chief: Medical marijuana could help vets," and here are excerpts:

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday he's open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to help service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but noted it’s strictly limited by federal law.  “There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin told reporters, pointing to states where medical pot is legal.

The VA has come under pressure from some influential veterans groups, including the American Legion, to reclassify marijuana to allow federal research into its effect on troops with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries....

“Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans,” said Shulkin, who is a trained physician. “I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law."

Relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws, however, would conflict with several top administration officials who take a hard-line approach on drugs, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Shulkin, who spoke at the White House about President Trump’s proposed reforms at the scandal-plagued agency, is a holdover from the Obama administration. The Senate confirmed him unanimously in February to lead the VA.

Some prior related posts:

May 31, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Highlighting notable state efforts to enhance minority participation in marijuana industry

This new AP article, headlined "Growing pot industry offers breaks to entice minorities," reviews some efforts in some jurisdictions to help some minorities participating in the emerging marijuana industry. Here are excerpts:

Oakland and other cities and states with legal pot are trying to make up for the toll marijuana enforcement took on minorities by giving them a better shot at joining the growing marijuana industry.... The efforts' supporters say legalization is enriching white people but not brown and black people who have been arrested for cannabis crimes at far greater rates than whites....

Massachusetts' ballot initiative was the first to insert specific language encouraging participation in the industry by those "disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." The law does not specify how that would be accomplished.

In Ohio, a 2016 medical pot law included setting aside 15 percent of marijuana-related licenses for minority businesses. In Pennsylvania, applicants for cultivation and dispensing permits must spell out how they will achieve racial equity. Florida lawmakers agreed last year to reserve one of three future cultivation licenses for a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association.

There have been setbacks as well. The Maryland General Assembly adjourned last month without acting on a bill to guarantee a place for minority-owned businesses that were not awarded any of the state's initial 15 medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

There's no solid data on how many minorities own U.S. cannabis businesses or how many seek a foothold in the industry. But diversity advocates say the industry is overwhelmingly white. The lack of diversity, they say, can be traced to multiple factors: rules that disqualify people with prior convictions from operating legal cannabis businesses; lack of access to banking services and capital to finance startup costs; and state licensing systems that tend to favor established or politically connected applicants. "It's a problem that has been recognized but has proven to be relatively intractable," said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation....

The Minority Cannabis Business Association has drafted model legislation for states considering new or revised marijuana laws, including language to expunge pot-related convictions and to encourage racial and gender diversity among cannabis businesses. "The people who got locked up should not get locked out of this industry," said Tito Jackson, a Boston city councilman and mayoral candidate. He suggests Massachusetts give licensing preference to groups that include at least one person with a marijuana conviction....

An Oakland-based nonprofit known as The Hood Incubator provides training and mentoring to minority cannabis entrepreneurs. "Maybe they lack the money to get into the industry or they might have, you know, gotten arrested in the past for oh, what do you know? Selling weed. And now they can't actually get into the legal industry," said Ebele Ifedigbo, one of the group's three co-founders.

This related AP article provides a details state-by-state run down of efforts to aid minority participation in the marijuana industry.

May 31, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Variation in cannabis potency and prices in a newly-legal market: Evidence from 30 million cannabis sales in Washington State"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research article authored by Rosanna Smart, Jonathan Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Steven Davenport and Greg Midgette.  Here are the basics via the abstract:

Aims

To (1) assess trends and variation in the market share of product types and potency sold in a legal cannabis retail market, and (2) estimate how potency and purchase quantity influence price variation for cannabis flower.

Design

Secondary analysis of publicly available data from Washington State's cannabis straceability system spanning July 7, 2014 to September 30, 2016. Descriptive statistics and linear regressions assessed variation and trends in cannabis product variety and potency. Hedonic regressions estimated how purchase quantity and potency influence cannabis flower price variation.

Setting

Washington State, USA.

Participants

(1) 44,482,176 million cannabis purchases, including (2) 31,052,123 cannabis flower purchases after trimming price and quantity outliers.

Measurements

Primary outcome measures were (1) monthly expenditures on cannabis, total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration, and cannabidiol (CBD) concentration by product type; and (2) excise-tax-inclusive price per gram of cannabis flower. Key covariates for the hedonic price regressions included quantity purchased, THC, and CBD.

Findings

Traditional cannabis flowers still account for the majority of spending (66.6%), but the market share of extracts for inhalation increased by 145.8% between October 2014 and September 2016, now composing 21.2% of sales. The average THC-level for cannabis extracts is more than triple that for cannabis flowers (68.7% compared to 20.6%). For flower products, there is a statistically significant relationship between price per gram and both THC [coefficient = 0.012; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.011 to 0.013] and CBD [coefficient = 0.017; CI = 0.015 to 0.019]. The estimated discount elasticity is -0.06 [CI = –0.07 to –0.05].

Conclusions

In the state of Washington, USA, the legal cannabis market is currently dominated by high-THC cannabis flower, and features growing expenditures on extracts. For cannabis flower, both THC and CBD are associated with higher per-gram prices, and there are small but significant quantity discounts.

May 30, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pennsylvania legal publication notes "Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom" and asks "but When Will It Bust?"

As a law professor, I am always distinctly interesting in stories about how marijuana reform is impacting the legal profession. Consequently, this new article from a Pennsylvania legal newspaper, headlined ""Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom, but When Will It Bust?", really caught my attention.  Here are excerpts:

With Pennsylvania well on its way toward implementing a medical marijuana program, dozens of lawyers in the state are preparing for an explosion of legal work related to cannabis. The blossoming industry is reminiscent of the surge in legal work that grew out of the Marcellus Shale play, which sparked up engagements for all kinds of firms almost a decade ago.

“Everyone wanted to be in it, there were people who carved out individual expertise … but the special area is here to stay,” said Steve Franko, a solo practitioner from Northeast Pennsylvania and member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s medical marijuana and hemp law committee. “It’s going to be, just like the [natural] gas was, a combination of people who have skills that maybe cross upon multiple areas.”...

Lawyers now getting into the medical marijuana space acknowledge that there may come a time when federal authorities decriminalize marijuana, decreasing the number of legal questions and the demand for cannabis-related legal consultations. But that’s a long way off, they said, as Pennsylvania is just starting to address the complicated effects of medical marijuana on numerous areas of law.

Andrew Sacks, head of both the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia bar association’s medical marijuana and hemp committees, said he has also heard lawyers compare medical cannabis to Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion, which created a rush of legal work several years ago, then saw a decline in work when casinos got their licenses.

But licensing is just the surface of medical marijuana law, said Sacks, a name partner at Philadelphia’s Sacks Weston Diamond. Lawyers in many other practices areas have an opportunity to get in on the action. “Everybody is searching the world, searching the country and cities to see what people have done in their specific area so they can become specific experts,” Sacks said. “People are gearing up to become the names in the category.”...

Things will really explode in the legal world “the second the first drip of medical marijuana gets sold,” Sacks said. When that happens, it won’t just create heath care and business issues, he said, but questions in a multitude of legal practices.

Kathryn Palladino, a criminal lawyer and subcommittee chair on the Philadelphia Bar’s medical marijuana committee, said she expects medical marijuana to become part of her day-to-day work, and it’s not just about clients breaking federal law to use it. DUI cases will raise questions about whether patients can drive after using marijuana, she said, and patients who are incarcerated may seek access to cannabis in prison. Patients on probation or parole who seek access to medical marijuana may risk violating parole. “It will only grow as the patients have access to the marijuana and we see some issues come up that the legislature hadn’t planned for,” Palladino said. And that’s just criminal law.

The new field of medical marijuana law will also touch on employment law, family law, education, intellectual property, licensing, life sciences, real estate, tax, workers’ compensation and zoning law, lawyers said. That’s one way that medical marijuana is different from the Marcellus Shale boom, Sacks said. Drilling and natural gas led to legal questions in five or so other areas of law, he said, but for legal cannabis, the collateral issues are more numerous.

May 30, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Older Women and Medical Marijuana: A New Growth Industry"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy New York Times article.  Here are excerpts:

Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left the hospital, her doctors handed her a “shopping bag filled with opiates,” she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her pharmaceuticals.

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to stash their drugs. “Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and I thought, ‘Why are we sneaking around like guilty teenagers?’” Ms. Moss said.

In 2015, she started a business called AnnaBis, a line of aroma-controlled handbags, clutches, vape cases and other pot-related accessories. Soon after, she began publishing cannabis-friendly travel guides exclusively for women — becoming one of a small but growing number of older women who are marijuana entrepreneurs.

“What other industry is growing so fast there’s the opportunity and low cost of entry?” Ms. Moss said. “Entrenched opportunities already have their systems set up. This hasn’t been created yet.”

Her story is typical of the women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have started up businesses in the world of pot. Inspired partly by their own use of the drug for pain relief, or by caring for others who use it for their own aches, these women see viable business opportunities and view their work as therapeutic for their customers. “It’s definitely a trend,” said Troy Dayton, the chief executive and a co-founder of the Arcview Group, an investment and market research firm that focuses on the cannabis industry....

There seems to be a market for such services: A study of 47,140 participants released in December, based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that cannabis use among adults ages 50 to 64 had increased nearly 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, while use by people 65 and older had risen 250 percent.

Ms. Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, used to think marijuana was a “hard-core drug like crack or cocaine,” she said. “If someone would have told me 12 years ago that I’d be an advocate for cannabis, I’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking too much.’” But now? “I get so much gratification from this work, and it’s so rewarding to see people get healed,” she said. “My life is better than ever. I’m healthy, and I’m starting a new business at 69.”

May 27, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Encouraging new research about CBD as an effective treatment for Dravet syndrome

ImagesAs reported in this NBC News piece, headlined "Cannabis Drug Reduces Seizures in Severe Epilepsy Cases," some encouraging new research news was published in a major medical journal today. Here are the details:

A compound taken from marijuana greatly helped some children with a severe and often deadly form of epilepsy and completely stopped seizures in a very few, researchers reported Wednesday.  It's a rare success in a field suffused with more hope than facts — in which advocates clamor to have marijuana and compounds taken from the herb legalized for free use, while government rules limit use and researchers struggle to prove what works and what doesn't.

In this study, the researchers enrolled kids with Dravet syndrome, a very rare and often deadly form of epilepsy caused by a genetic mutation.  These kids have multiple, prolonged seizures that cause brain damage. There's no treatment. "It's hard to portray how serious and devastating this is," Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, told NBC News.

Devinsky and colleagues around the country tested a cannabis derivative called cannabidiol — CBD for short — on 120 Dravet syndrome patients.  Half took it for 14 weeks and half got a placebo.

"Seizure frequency dropped in the cannabidiol-treated group by 39 percent from nearly 12 convulsive seizures per month before the study to about six; three patients' seizures stopped entirely," the team wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.  "In the placebo group, there was a 13 percent reduction in seizures from about 15 monthly seizures to 14," they added.

"Quite remarkably, 5 percent of the children in the active treatment group with CBD were completely seizure free during the 14 weeks of the trial," Devinsky said. "And these were kids who were often having dozens of seizures, if not many more than that per week."

The kids who got CBD were more likely to stop the trial because of side-effects. "Side-effects were generally mild or moderate in severity, with the most common being vomiting, fatigue and fever," Devinsky wrote.  But those who have been helped have been transformed, he added. "There's no doubt for some children this is just been an incredibly effective and game changing medication for them," Devinsky said.

"These are some of the children I care for [who] were in wheelchairs, were barely able to open their eyes in an office visit and really showed no emotion and … now they come in, they're walking, they're smiling, they're interactive. It's like a different human being in front of you."

He said it's not quite accurate to called CBD "medical marijuana."

"Cannabidiol is the major non-psychoactive compound present in cannabis or marijuana," Devinsky said.  "In this study, we were giving a compound CBD which has no high-producing or psychoactive properties."...

"The drug we gave was derived from cannabis or marijuana but it really should not be confused with the medical marijuana that would be obtained from dispensaries in the 44 U.S. states that have approved it. Those typically contain combinations of THC with CBD and many other compounds," Devinsky said.

It's not clear precisely how CBD works. It appears to attach to brain cells, he said. "The CBD binds with a novel receptor in the brain and thereby dampens down too much electrical activity," he said. "It seems to be a relatively unique mechanism of action that's not shared by any of the existing seizure medications."

Doctors are interested in trying CBD on autism, anxiety, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, Devinsky said.  It may help people with other types of seizures, as well....

Australian epilepsy expert Dr. Samuel Berkovic said much more testing is needed. "This trial represents the beginning of solid evidence for the use of cannabinoids in epilepsy," Berkovic, who works at the University of Melbourne, wrote in a commentary.

May 24, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto

Images (3)As reported in this local article, "Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont."  Here is more:

At a highly anticipated press conference in his Montpelier office, the Republican governor said he could not sign S.22, which passed the Vermont House and Senate in the waning days of the recently concluded legislative session. But Scott said he was open to revisiting the debate with legislators — perhaps as soon as an expected veto session next month.

Vermont’s Democratic legislature is unlikely to override Scott’s veto, given that the bill squeaked through the House two weeks ago on a 79-66 vote.

The legislation would have allowed adults over age 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow as many as two mature plants per household, starting in July 2018. Similar to Washington, D.C.’s marijuana law, it would not have allowed for sale or commercial growing of the drug. The bill would also have created a commission to study how Vermont could tax and regulate marijuana sales, as Colorado and several other states have done.

The governor has said he does not consider marijuana legalization a priority and has concerns about the lack a roadside test to detect driver impairment.

Had Scott signed the bill, Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through legislative action rather by public referendum.

Prior related post:

"Vermont Legislature becomes first to approve legal marijuana"

UPDATE:   I have now had a chance to read Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's remarks explaining his veto, and they are available at this link.  Here are some of the interesting particulars:

I have been clear since the campaign and throughout the session: I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana, and I recognize there is a clear societal shift in that direction. However, I feel it is crucial that key questions and concerns involving public safety and health are addressed before moving forward.

We must get this right. Let the science inform any policy we make around this issue, learn from the experience of other states, and take whatever time is required to do so. In my view, policymakers have an obligation to all Vermonters – and those who visit us – to address health, safety, prevention and education questions before committing the state to a specific timeline for moving forward.

More specifically – as I have said repeatedly throughout the campaign and this session – we should know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways, fund and implement additional substance abuse prevention education, keep our children safe and penalize those who do not, and measure how legalization impacts the mental health and substance abuse issues our communities are already facing.

From my vantage point, S.22 does not yet adequately address these questions. Therefore, I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market.

I’ll be providing the Legislature with recommended changes. And to be clear, if they are willing to work with me to address my concerns in a new bill passed during the veto session this summer, there is a path forward on this issue.

Those recommendations include the following:

First, in its attempt to equate marijuana with alcohol. This bill appears to weaken penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors. Sections of this bill must be rewritten to make clear that existing penalties for the dispensing and sale of marijuana to minors and on school grounds remain unchanged.

Weakening these protections and penalties should be totally unacceptable to even the most ardent legalization advocates.

Second, I am asking for changes to more aggressively penalize consumption while driving, and usage in the presence of minors....

Third, the Marijuana Regulatory Commission section must be enhanced in order to be taken seriously. It must include a broader membership, including representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health, the Department of Taxes, and the substance abuse prevention and treatment community.  The Commission must be charged with determining outcomes, such as an impairment threshold for operating a motor vehicle; an impairment testing mechanism; an education and prevention strategy to address use by minors; and a plan for continued monitoring and reporting on impacts to public health.

May 24, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"The Cross-Border Spillover Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by Zhuang Hao and Benjamin Cowan published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Here is the abstract:

We examine the spillover effects of recreational marijuana legalization (RML) in Colorado and Washington on neighboring states.  We find that RML causes a sharp increase in marijuana possession arrests in border counties of neighboring states relative to non-border counties in these states.  RML has no impact on juvenile marijuana possession arrests but is rather fully concentrated among adults.  We do not find evidence that marijuana sale/manufacture arrests, DUI arrests, or opium/cocaine possession arrests in border counties are affected by RML.

May 23, 2017 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

American Legion, the largest US vets' organization, pressing Trump Administration on medical marijuana reform

LegionemblemThis new Politico article, headlined "American Legion to Trump: Allow marijuana research for vets," reports on a notable new push by a notable organization to seek a notable change in federal marijuana laws with the new administration. Here are excerpts from an article which strikes me as pretty big news:

One of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups is appealing to President Donald Trump to reclassify marijuana to allow large-scale research into whether cannabis can help troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder . The change sought by The American Legion would conflict with the strongly anti-marijuana positions of some administration leaders, most vocally Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Under current rules, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot even discuss marijuana as an option with patients.  But the alternative treatment is gaining support in the medical community, where some researchers hope pot might prove more effective than traditional pharmaceuticals in controlling PTSD symptoms and reducing the record number of veteran suicides.

"We are not asking for it to be legalized," said Louis Celli, the national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, which with 2.4 million members is the largest U.S. veterans’ organization.  "There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets.  The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal."

The Legion has requested a White House meeting with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and close aide, "as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research," according to a recent letter shared with POLITICO.

The request marks a significant turn in the debate over medical marijuana by lending an influential and unexpected voice.  The Legion, made up mostly of Vietnam and Korean War-era veterans, is breaking with other leading vets’ groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars in lobbying for the removal of the major roadblock in pursuing marijuana treatment.  But it also comes as the new administration, led by Sessions, is sending strong signals of its desire to thwart marijuana decriminalization and legalization efforts.  Expectations are growing in Congress that DOJ may even try to roll back medical marijuana laws in 29 states....

"We desperately need more research in this area to inform policymakers," said Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona who is running one of the only cannabis studies underway focused on vets suffering from PTSD.  "I really want to see the most objective data published in peer reviewed medical journals.” She added that she isn’t prejudging what the outcome of the research will be.

“I don't know if cannabis will turn out to be helpful for PTSD,” Sisley said.  “I know what veterans tell me but until we have rigorous controlled trials, all we have are case studies that are not rigorous enough to make me, medical professionals, health departments or policymakers convinced."

Some veterans’ activists are angry at the federal government’s continued resistance to even studying cannabis, even as an average of 20 vets kill themselves every day. "We need solutions," said Nick Etten, a former Navy SEAL who runs the Veterans Cannabis Project, a health policy organization. "We need treatment that works. We need treatment that is not destructive.  The VA has been throwing opiates at veterans for almost every condition for the last 15 years.  You are looking at a system that has made a problem worse the way they have approached treatment."...

The VA declined to address whether it is reconsidering its stance on the issue, citing the illegality of marijuana in all its forms under federal law....  Most leading veterans’ groups are toeing that line, including Veterans of Foreign Wars.  "The VFW has no official position regarding this ongoing debate because marijuana is illegal under federal law," said Joe Davis, the group's spokesman.

But grassroots support is growing among veterans — both young and older — and in Congress to reconsider the current approach.  Much of that is because of growing anecdotal evidence that marijuana helps some veterans with PTSD control their symptoms when approved drugs do not, such as ridding them of nightmares and helping them sleep.  And that is what is driving the efforts of the American Legion.  Celli said the group's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission, which represents veterans from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently gave the Legion "overwhelming support" to advocate changes....

In addition to cannabis, the organization is advocating for more research on so-called Quantitative EEG neurometrics, which measures the brain's electrical activity.  "The American Legion believes these two areas alone can help cut the amount of veteran suicides and cases of chemically addicted veteran by more than half," the letter to the White House says.  "The American Legion respectfully requests a meeting with President Trump as soon as possible and looks forward to partnering with this administration in the fight against narcotics addiction and reducing the veteran suicide rate from the tragic loss of 20 warriors per day, to zero."

May 21, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 19, 2017

"New potential for marijuana: Treating drug addiction"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy CNN piece.  Here are excerpts:

Most European countries and Canada have embraced the idea of harm reduction, designing policies that help people with drug problems to live better, healthier lives rather than to punish them. On the front lines of addiction in the United States, some addiction specialists have also begun to work toward this end.

Joe Schrank, program director and founder of High Sobriety, is one of them. He says his Los Angeles-based treatment center uses medicinal cannabis as a detox and maintenance protocol for people who have more severe addictions, although it's effectiveness is not scientifically proven. "So it's a harm-reduction theory," he said. "With cannabis, there is no known lethal dose; it can be helpful for certain conditions."

"Some say it's hypocritical because, you know, you're supposed to go to rehab to get off drugs," said Schrank, who recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety from alcohol and all drugs. "And cessation of drug use can be a goal for some people, but pacing is also important." Some patients want to gradually move into abstinence, weaning themselves off drugs over time. Others want to maintain sobriety from a drug by using a less harsh drug, such as cannabis.

Others, including Todd Stumbo, CEO of Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center in Georgia, do not favor using marijuana as treatment for addiction. "I'm all about adding interventions and therapeutic techniques that have proven to be significantly profound in the changes to somebody's life and treatment. Unfortunately, I don't know that there's evidence to substantiate that marijuana's had that effect," says Stumbo. "Our take is abstinence based and we use every tool or intervention we can that's been proven effective in the past."

Still, harm reduction is gaining acceptance in the wider field of addiction specialists in the U.S. "In principle, what we have aimed for many years is to find interventions that would lead to complete abstinence," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Practically, though, that has been very difficult to achieve with relapsing addictions.

"One of the things is, we don't have any evidence-based medication that has proven to be efficacious for the treatment of cocaine addiction," Volkow said. "So we currently have no medicine to intervene, and it can be a very severe addiction and actually quite dangerous."...

"We have started to explore the extent to which interventions that can decrease the amount of drug consumed can have benefits to the individual," Volkow said, adding that she'd make this same argument for opioids and heroin. "It would be valuable to decrease the amount of drug consumed."...

Schrank, who readily concedes there are possible health and addiction risks with marijuana, says he offers his cannabis detox and maintenance protocol to people addicted to crack cocaine as well as those trying to kick opioids. Through the years, he says, he's treated about 50 people with this technique and expects to see "more people wanting to try to have a voice in their recovery rather than just plug into systems telling them what to do." Marijuana "can really help people with pain management and other health issues, or it can help them be safer," Schrank said.

Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says generally, cannabidiol is the more important compound when it comes to marijuana as a treatment for addiction. It is one of the two primary cannabinoids, along with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in the cannabis plant. In terms of the wider scope of medical marijuana research, this is the "same cannabidiol being looked at for the kids with epilepsy," Hurd said.

May 19, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Minnesota health department reports "perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients" in state's medical marijuana program

Rsz-minnesota-patients-with-chronic-pain-now-qualify-for-medical-marijuana-640x401Minnesota's medical marijuana program has garnered some headlines this week in part because of reports of big economic losses being suffered by industry players.   As this local article details, "Minnesota's medical marijuana manufacturing companies have lost $11 million in just two years of sales."  But the story emerging from the state this week that seems greater potential import and impact concerns a state study of patients noted this AP piece headlined  "Study: Minnesota medical marijuana patients report benefits."

The study comes from the Minnesota Department of Health and is titled "Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Patient Experiences from the First Program Year."  The complete report is due to to be released next month, but this Executive Summary was released this week and includes these passages:

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 a total of 1660 patients enrolled in the program and 577 health care practitioners registered themselves in order to certify that patients have a medical condition that qualifies them for the program. The most common qualifying conditions were severe and persistent muscle spasms (43%), cancer (28%), and seizures (20%). Each of the remaining six qualifying conditions during the first year – Crohn’s Disease, Terminal illness, HIV/AIDS, Tourette Syndrome, glaucoma, and ALS – accounted for less than 10% of patients. Ten percent (167 patients) were certified for more than one qualifying condition. Most patients were middle-aged (56% between ages 36-64), 11% were <18, and 11% were ≥65. Distribution by race/ethnicity generally matched the state’s demographics, with 90% of patients describing themselves as white....

Information on patient benefits comes from the Patient Self-Evaluations (PSE) completed by patients prior to each medical cannabis purchase and from patient and health care practitioner surveys. Results of analysis of PSE and survey data indicate perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients....

Moderate to severe levels of non-disease-specific symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and sleep difficulties were common across all the medical conditions. And the reductions in these symptoms was often quite large. These findings support the understanding that some of the benefit perceived by patients is expressed as improved quality of life.

May 18, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two notable new accounts and accountings of modern marijuana industry

This afternoon brings two interesting new pieces about the state and fate of the marijuana industry from the business media. Here are the headlines, links and a few key passages from the articles:

From MarketWatch here, "Marijuana experts question how industry will mature as rapid growth continues but full legalization lags":

Right now the industry is experiencing growing pains.... Certain markets have become so crowded and competitive it’s gotten tougher for businesses to turn a profit.  The Marijuana Business Daily, which conducts an annual survey of marijuana retailers, wholesale cultivators and infused product manufacturers, said about 55% of those queried said they had reached break-even or turned a profit within the first year of starting their business.  That’s down from 70% who, when polled last year, said they achieved that first-year milestone.

Recreational sales of marijuana ballooned 80% to $1.8 billion in 2016, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily, and in 2017 recreational sales are expected to surpass medical sales for the first time.  The industry currently employs anywhere from 165,000 to 230,00 people, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily.

Investments in the industry are increasing in size, frequency and scope.  Major institutional investors are still steering clear of the market because it’s federally illegal, but individual investors are showing interest.  Last year, private equity firm Tuatara Capital raised an industry record $93 million to invest in marijuana businesses.

From CNBC here, "How the Trump administration is affecting the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry":

Projections vary among industry analysts, but the numbers are substantial.  Marijuana Business Daily predicts retail sales will hit $6.1 billion for 2017 and the industry could have a maximum economic impact of some $68.4 billion by 2021; GreenWave Advisors predicts $7.7 billion for 2017 and $30 billion by 2021 if recreational and medicinal cannabis is legalized nationwide.

Capital has also flooded into the space — nearly $1 billion from 2012 through 2016, according to GreenWave Advisors, citing data from Pitchbook.  What's more, Marijuana Business Daily finds that investors report plans to increase the size of their investments this year.  The average investor or firm involved in the industry has put around $450,000 in cannabis companies to date, with each investment coming in around $100,000.  But this year, they plan to invest around $500,000 on average in marijuana businesses.

"The Trump Administration has not yet changed our strategy, because there's been a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of action," says Patrick Rea, CEO and co-founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Canopy Accelerator, an investment fund for early stage cannabis companies.  It has invested over $6.5 million since early 2015 in more than 64 companies.  "A lot of investors are becoming more aware that they have an impact on what the administration might decide or not decide to do based on how they present themselves as a business-friendly environment, creating jobs and having positive effects on society," Rea says.

May 18, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interesting look at how religion and religious groups might support or oppose marijuana reform

Genesis-129-Bible-Jesus-Religion-cannabis-17234763584

This lengthy new BuzzFeed News article, headlined ""Can Cannabis And Christ Coexist? These Devout Southern Christians Think So," provides am interesting and effectively review of some issues that arise at the intersection of marijuana reform and religion.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some extended excerpts:

Lydia Decker couldn’t miss the man in the motorized wheelchair as he whirred down the aisles of a West Texas grocery store. As someone with lung problems herself, she noticed his oxygen tank and wondered about his illness and his meds. They got talking, and Decker mentioned Genesis 1:29, the organization she heads that uses religion to preach the value of medical cannabis. This was one conversion that wasn't going to happen.

“Oh, that trash!” Decker remembered the man saying as she tried to reason with him in the pharmacy aisle. The nurse with the man “politely” asked Decker, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to leave. She did, but not before handing the nurse a Genesis 1:29 business card, which features a map of Texas covered with a large cannabis leaf and the words “One Mission End Prohibition!”...

Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she's endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”

Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.

Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May. “People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,'” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”

The South is the last frontier for cannabis law reform. And it is no coincidence that it is also the most religious region in the country, according to Pew Research. It’s a place where interpretations of God’s word can be as powerful as law, and where preachers have long proclaimed the evils of marijuana. So as pot takes hold for medical use in more than half the country, and for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, both are nonstarters in much of the South. Only Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia have full medical marijuana programs, and recreational use is not even on the horizon.

The president of the organization that represents the largest evangelical group in the US won’t budge on calling marijuana a sin. “The scripture speaks against drunkenness, and marijuana is a mind-altering substance with the purpose of achieving, essentially, what the Bible would describe as drunkenness,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

To get the votes they need, pro-legalization groups can't just preach to nonbelievers; they also need to court people of faith, says Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that is behind most of the cannabis laws in the country. Support from religious groups has become as key as support from law enforcement groups, addiction specialists, and parent groups. “I know that most of the major policy reform organizations are working on that right now — trying to build coalitions with faith-based groups,” Fox said.

After all, marijuana has never been more popular with young people — recent polls show the 18–34 crowd overwhelmingly in support of legalization. At the same time, young people’s church attendance is dropping. As much as pro-pot groups need religious support, religious leaders need to hold onto their flocks, and sometimes that means loosening opinions on controversial issues.

In Utah last year, the Church of Latter-day Saints weighed in on competing medical cannabis bills and made the unprecedented move of expressing support for one, albeit by backing the stricter of two pieces of legislation. And a group of Muslim undergraduate students at the University of South Florida, where medical marijuana was on the state ballot, tackled the question of whether cannabis use is haram last year during an event called "Contemporary Issues in Islam: A Discussion on Medical Marijuana.” Some faiths have expressed varying degrees of support for medical marijuana, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Unitarian churches. In New York, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries had the cannabis blessed by a rabbi. And globally, to respect the traditional use of cannabis by Rastafarians, Jamaica legalized cannabis for religious use in 2015.

But to bring cannabis to the region of the US where states are deeply red and religious and where pot is both a social taboo and a ticket to jail, Decker and others are harnessing their devotion to their faiths to evangelize for it....

Still, religious opposition continues to influence drug policy throughout the region. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke out against the nine legalization initiatives put before voters in November. “I think when it comes to marijuana I’m, of course, for criminal penalties for marijuana use and for continuing criminalization of marijuana,” Moore told BuzzFeed News, specifying, though, that he is not in favor of the “incoherent mass incarceration that we’ve had as a result of the drug war.”

The Catholic Church has also come out against legalization; in 2014, Pope Francis remarked that "drug addiction is an evil” and “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called 'recreational drugs,' are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” The Catholic diocese in Arizona and Massachusetts came out against legalization in fall 2016. While this “didn’t swing the pendulum in Massachusetts,” where legalization squeaked through in November, “it very well could have in Arizona,” where legalization failed, Fox said.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion | Permalink | Comments (16)

"Risky Business? The Trump Administration and the State-Licensed Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this short essay authored by Rob Mikos and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he opposes legalization of marijuana, a drug he considers “only slightly less awful” than heroin.  Such comments have fueled speculation that the Trump Administration might soon launch a new war on weed.  In this short essay, however, Professor Mikos suggests that the Trump Administration’s impact on state reforms and the state-licensed marijuana industry is likely to be tempered by three potent forces: (1) political support for state reforms; (2) practical limits on the DOJ’s enforcement capacity; and (3) legal doctrines that weaken the DOJ’s ability to turn back the clock on state reforms.  The essay discusses each of these constraints in turn and ultimately suggests that the Attorney General might pursue less draconian tactics, like anti-marijuana media campaigns, to curb the rise of the marijuana industry and the harms he attributes to it.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still more sales data suggesting a Trump bump in Colorado marijuana sales

In a post last month, I asked "Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?" based on data showing increased marijuana sales in Colorado the first two months of this year.  Now, via this new Cannabist piece, headlined "Colorado marijuana sales top $131M, set record in March 2017," we have additional data on ever-increasing sales, though there is no way to tell from basic sales data if the market is experiencing general growth or if folks in Colorado may be stocking up on marijuana in light of uncertainty concerning federal marijuana policies under a new administration.   Speculations about reasons aside, here are the basic sales details along with some perspectives via The Cannabist:

The Colorado cannabis industry’s unbridled growth hasn’t waned — in fact, it’s still setting records. The state’s licensed marijuana shops captured nearly $132 million of recreational and medical cannabis sales in March, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state sales tax data made public Tuesday.

The monthly sales haul of $131.7 million sets a new record for Colorado’s relatively young legal marijuana industry, besting the previous high of $127.8 million set last September, The Cannabist’s calculations show.  It’s the tenth consecutive month that sales have topped $100 million.

Sales tax revenue generated for the state during March was $22.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.  March’s sales totals were 48 percent higher than those tallied in March 2016, according to The Cannabist’s calculations. The month closes out a quarter in which sales were up nearly 36 percent from the first three months of last year.

In 2016, the year-over-year quarterly growth rate ranged between 29 percent and 39.6 percent.  The Cannabist also found that March 2017’s year-over-year percentage growth outpaced much of what was seen on a monthly basis last year.  Monthly growth rates from calendar year 2015 to 2016 averaged nearly 34 percent.

It was this continued rate of growth that caught the attention of some analysts and economists contacted by The Cannabist. Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, separately calculated out the year-over-year monthly growth rate for Colorado cannabis sales and saw a trend emerge.

“The year-over-year rates of growth have continued at a steady pace, which to me indicates that we have not yet reached the point at which we are starting to cap out the market,” he said. At that point, he added, the growth rates would start to decline.

If the current growth rates keeps up, April 2017 should be another record month, and the summer of 2017 should set new highs, Livingston predicted. And by the end of the year, that could add up to an industry boasting $1.6 billion in sales, he said.

“We’re surprised that sales continue to grow so quickly,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based financial, policy, research and consulting firm focused on the marijuana industry.  “We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space.”  Adult-use sales, which hit a new monthly high of $93.3 million, accounted for the lion’s share of the March totals.  Medical cannabis transactions totaled $38.4 million.

Light and other economists have previously projected that Colorado’s marijuana market would eventually hit a ceiling as the draw from the black market becomes more complete, regular economic cycles take hold and other states implement adult-use sales.  It’s hard to predict when that plateau may occur, but the license and application fees in the March 2017 report were telling, Light said.

Ten months into Colorado’s fiscal year (the latest report for March sales show tax revenue remitted in April), the license and application fees for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana businesses were down 25.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue report.  “This shows that fewer new firms are entering and, I believe, shows that … sales should be tapering off or declining,” he said.

Whatever the particular reasons for the strong and steady sales growth in Colorado, there numbers seem certain to keep investors and other business players "bullish" on the marijuana industry at least for the time being.  And such business bullishness will likely continue to fuel various efforts in various jurisdictions to continue moving forward with or expand the reach of marijuana reform.

Prior related post:

May 11, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

In praise of Canada's commitment to data concerns and collection in marijuana reform efforts

ThAs reported via this local piece, headlined "Feds hope pot-by-numbers effort helps extinguish illegal marijuana trade," it appears the folks to our north are deeply and wisely committed to collecting and analyzing lots of data as marijuana reform efforts unfold. Here are some of the details:

The federal government is hoping to find strength in numbers as it tries to stamp out the illicit marijuana market.  Government officials are collecting data — everything from the street price of pot to how often people light up — to arm themselves in the fight against organized crime's presence in the trade, internal Public Safety Canada documents reveal.
The Liberal government has tabled legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use, with the aim of keeping pot out of the hands of children while denying criminals the hefty profits.
Officials had already identified 45 specific categories of information they would need to gauge the success of the new policy.  Of these, Canada collected data to calculate about seven, some partial information on a further 17 and little to no figures on the remaining 21 categories.  The wide variety of missing data includes a measure of the fire hazard posed by grow-ops, overdose statistics, the scope of crop-eradication efforts and effects of marijuana use on school performance.
The government plans to monitor patterns related to cannabis use, especially among young people, on an annual basis through the Canadian Cannabis Survey.  In March, Health Canada began the two-month survey, involving some 10,000 Canadians, said a department spokeswoman.  The planned questions most relevant to organized crime were related to the type, quantity and frequency of pot consumed, where it is being obtained, the purchase price and contact between users and police, say March notes released by Public Safety through the Access to Information Act.
"In a regime of legal recreational cannabis, price data in the illicit market is still important," say the notes.  "This is because the behaviour of consumers of cannabis, such as switching between markets, will be influenced by price."  Some research results are already trickling in.   A study commissioned by the department pegged the cost of high-quality black-market cannabis in the 2011 to 2015 period at $7.69 a gram.  Research also found that a 10-per-cent drop in the price of pot could cause a four-to-six per cent increase in the amount consumed. 
Officials want accurate figures on the sheer amount of marijuana Canadians use to help with basic supply-and-demand modelling that will paint a fuller picture.  They note such data exists in studies of legal and contraband tobacco, allowing criminologists and economists to build solid models.  Another key to understanding the price of pot is information about law-enforcement efforts, the notes say.  "For example, if more resources are dedicated to combatting grow-ops in one particular area, it would be expected that the enforcement would affect the price of marijuana in that area, as well as the areas surrounding it."

Notably and encouragingly, last year Public Safety Canada produced this very effective document about marijuana reform and data issues titled "Cannabis Performance Metrics for Policy Consideration – What Do We Need to Measure?".  This news article and that prior document suggests the folks up north are asking all the right kinds of questions and will be collecting all the right kinds of data for effectively analyzing the impacts of marijuana reform in Canada.

May 11, 2017 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Vermont Legislature becomes first to approve legal marijuana"

Vermont

The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting on very big news out of the Green Mountain State. Here are the details:

Vermont’s Legislature has become the first in the nation to approve a recreational marijuana legalization bill.

Vermont's bill, which would legalize small amounts of marijuana possession in 2018 and anticipate the possibility of a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market, was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 79-66.  The bill has already been passed by the Senate and will go directly to Gov. Phil Scott.

Other states have legalized marijuana following a voter referendum, but no state has yet legalized marijuana solely through the legislative process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures....

Wednesday's vote closed a divisive debate over legalization, particularly in the House, that once prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe to predict that legalization would take a "miracle" to pass this year.  Earlier in the day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to support the limited bill, which was pitched as a compromise between the House and Senate approaches on marijuana.

The proposal incorporates H.170, the House-supported bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants or four immature marijuana plants for adults over 21.  The effective date has been pushed back one year until July 1, 2018.  The bill also sets up a nine-member commission to study the best way to regulate marijuana in the future.

"There's no slam dunk of any kind," said Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking about the prospect of a legal marijuana market.  "It just is doing work that could be used next year or in subsequent years."  The proposal would continue to prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana and the use of marijuana in public places.  Employers, landlords, schools and prisons could continue to restrict marijuana use.

May 10, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Could marijuana prove to be a brain-boosting drug for older individuals?

DownloadThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Scientific American piece headlined "Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain." Here are excerpts:

Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment. But new research published this week in Nature Medicine suggests the drug might affect older users very differently than young ones—at least in mice. Instead of impairing learning and memory as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.

Researchers led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany gave low doses of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient, to young, mature and aged mice. As expected, young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning. For example, after THC young mice took longer to learn where a safe platform was hidden in a water maze, and they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed. Without the drug, mature and aged mice performed worse on the tests than young ones did. But after receiving THC the elderly animals’ performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. “The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer says.

Other experts praised the study but cautioned against extrapolating the findings to humans. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who was not involved in the study, wrote in an e-mail. Nevertheless, she added, “While it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans…further research will be critically needed.”...

The findings raise the intriguing possibility THC and other “cannabinoids” might act as anti-aging molecules in the brain. Cannabinoids include dozens of biologically active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. THC, the most highly studied type, is largely responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The plant compounds mimic our brain’s own marijuanalike molecules, called endogenous cannabinoids, which activate specific receptors in the brain capable of modulating neural activity. “We know the endogenous cannabinoid system is very dynamic; it goes through changes over the lifespan,” says Ryan McLaughlin, a researcher who studies cannabis and stress at Washington State University and was not involved in the current work. Research has shown the cannabinoid system develops gradually during childhood, “and then it blows up in adolescence—you see increased activity of its enzymes and receptors,” McLaughlin says. “Then as we age, it’s on a steady decline.”

That decline in the endogenous cannabinoid system with age fits with previous work by Zimmer and others showing cannabinoid-associated molecules become more scant in the brains of aged animals. “The idea is that as animals grow old, similar to in humans, the activity of the endogenous cannabinoid system goes down—and that coincides with signs of aging in the brain,” Zimmer says. “So we thought, what if we stimulate the system by supplying [externally produced] cannabinoids?”...

The researchers don’t suggest seniors should rush out and start using marijuana. “I don’t want to encourage anyone to use cannabis in any form based on this study,” Zimmer says. Older adults looking to medical cannabis to relieve chronic pain and other ailments are concerned about its side effects, Ware says. “They want to know: Does this cause damage to my brain? Will it impair my memory? If this data holds up in humans…it may suggest that [THC] isn’t likely to have a negative impact if you’re using the right dose. Now the challenge is thrown down to clinical researchers to study that in people,” Ware says. Zimmer and his colleagues plan to do just that. They have secured funding from the German government, and after clearing regulatory hurdles they will begin testing the effects of THC in elderly adults with mild cognitive impairments.

May 10, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 8, 2017

"The Marijuana Industry Is Getting Super-Sized"

Medicinal-marijuana-business-dailyThe title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article.  Here are excerpts:

Retail sales for legal marijuana are growing so big and so fast that the industry is having to super size their operations. Growing and producing marijuana products is now happening on an industrial scale.

Retail sales in the U.S. from 20 jurisdictions were $6.5 billion, but according to Greenwave Advisors that number is projected to grow to $30 billion by 2021. In order to meet the demand for customers, the growers and makers of infused products are having to scale up their operations. More automation, more square footage and the ability to manage this fast growth is separating the mom & pops from corporate cannabis.

Berto Torres, Chief Operations Officer at GFarmaLabs in California has been with the company since it started with four grow lights and had a canopy of 3,000 square feet. They now have 700,000 square feet under management. Torres said the company's growth boomed after they made the jump to branded products and specifically after they won a Cannabis Cup award for chocolate truffles in 2014. “It created so much demand, we had to scale up,” he said, “We needed to organize ourselves and run and function like a normal corporate company.”... Of course success in the cannabis industry immediately comes with accusations of “going corporate.” “We were accused of selling out by having a consistent product,” said Torres. “I think we're one of the few companies that's been able to create a successful blending of both worlds.”

One of the companies that is helping the cannabis industry scale up in volume is Convectium. While some industrial equipment companies refuse to work with the cannabis industry, Convectium has jumped at the opportunity. “If this was a stagnant industry, slow growth would be okay. Cannabis is growing so fast, you get passed by if you don't automate,” said Danny Davis, a Managing Partner at Convectium. He added that a laid back chill attitude in this business won't work. “Aggressive is a solid attitude to have in cannabis.”

For example, when it comes to filling a cannabis oil cartridges for vaping some small companies fill them by hand using a syringe. Davis said it takes a company an hour to fill 100 cartridges in that manner. His machine can fill 100 vape cartridges in 30 seconds. “The demand for machines is 5 times what it was from one year ago,” he said. “We truly believe that the only way to scale is to add technology and standardization.” Like the people that criticize G Farma for going corporate, Davis said there are many operations that are resistant to change. “They don't trust technology,” he said. “Many of the companies out there are primitive, even the big ones, but they will learn they had better scale quickly.”

Kiva Confections is one of the biggest infused edible companies in California that has successfully grown. Co-founders Kristi Knoblich and Scott Palmer started with a couple of workers and now Kiva employs 85 people, with products in 1,000 dispensaries. The business began in their kitchen, but the fast growth has them moving to a 30,000 square foot facility. “We're looking at large scale equipment to prepare for the recreational market.” said Palmer. Kiva is also in Nevada and Arizona and has plans to expand to Colorado, Illinois and Hawaii....

The days of local growers selling out of backpacks to dispensaries wasn't that long ago, but it is definitely over. Growers must produce large volumes of consistent flower. Producers must be able to sell branded product that is the same from state to state and meet the demand of hundreds of dispensaries. Scaling up will be the new challenge for the biggest players in the marijuana industry.

May 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Prez Trump issues notable statement when signing spending bill with DOJ limit on going after medical marijuana states

170301105323-trump-marijuana-780x439As reported in this Bloomberg piece, headlined "Trump Spurns Congress as He Signals Medical Marijuana Fight," the President made a significant statement on a number of topics, including marijuana enforcement, while signing the latest spending bill. Here are the details:

President Donald Trump signaled he may ignore a congressional ban on interfering with state medical marijuana laws, arguing in a lengthy statement that he isn’t legally bound by a series of limits lawmakers imposed on him.

Trump issued the “signing statement” Friday after he signed a measure funding the government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, reprising a controversial tactic former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama used while in office.  Trump also suggested he may ignore gender and racial preferences in some government programs as well as congressional requirements for advance notice before taking a range of foreign policy and military actions....

In the signing statement, Trump singled out a provision in the spending bill that says funds cannot be used to block states from implementing medical marijuana laws.  “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he said.

Obama also occasionally released signing statements objecting to congressional restrictions on his authority.  The White House described Trump’s signing statement as routine, but did not indicate whether the president planned to take action to defy Congressional restrictions....

Tim Shaw, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that the president is bound by the language in the spending bill that now bears his signature.  “Part of the argument here in this signing statement is that he has the constitutional requirement to execute the law,” Shaw said in an interview.  “But this is one of those laws, and Congress has the ultimate authority over funds getting spent.”

Because the language used in this signing statement is somewhat boilerplate, I am disinclined to view this development as a direct announcement or even an indirect signal of any new firm policy of the Trump Administration in the arena of marijuana reform.  Still, given that the President has said almost nothing about marijuana reform since his election and given that some members of his Cabinet are clearly not fans of the marijuana reform movement, this statement provides more evidence that Prez Trump and others within the White House are not eager to be active cheerleaders for state marijuana reform efforts.

May 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)