Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Medical marijuana should be left to communities to decide, legislator says

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Source: Detroit Free Press

Two dozen people gathered Tuesday night at Birmingham's Baldwin Public Library to hear a state lawmaker say a bill he sponsored could close a gap in the state law on medical marijuana and make it easier for "little old ladies" to get the drug.

State Rep. Mike Callton, a Republican from Barry County, north of Kalamazoo, said his bill would let each Michigan city, township and village decide for itself whether to allow "provisioning centers" for distribution of medical marijuana.

State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, who spoke tonight at Birmingham’s Baldwin Public Library on how his House Bill 5580 would provide wider access to legal users of medical marijuana in Michigan. Callton, a chiropractor who supports marijuana for health uses, will speak Saturday on the Medical Marijuana Radio Show, noon-1 p.m., on WDTW-AM (1310).
State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, who spoke tonight at Birmingham’s Baldwin Public Library on how his House Bill 5580 would provide wider access to legal users of medical marijuana in Michigan. Callton, a chiropractor who supports marijuana for health uses, will speak Saturday on the Medical Marijuana Radio Show, noon-1 p.m., on WDTW-AM (1310). / Bill Laitner/Detroit Free Press
Many medical users say Michigan needs a system of public distribution centers, often called dispensaries.

 Although Callton said he avoids that term because it became controversial after state Attorney General Bill Schuette declared dispensaries illegal.

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The meeting was held in the heart of Oakland County, scene of numerous police raids and criminal prosecutions of dispensaries in 2010 and 2011 by county authorities, who repeatedly have said they were obligated to shut down dispensaries. Other counties have taken different tacks, including Wayne and Washtenaw, where dispensaries have remained open as cases to determine their legality work their way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

"How many of you have been arrested?" Callton asked the crowd. Ten people raised hands.

"How many have had your property seized?" he asked next. Six hands went up.
"And how many of you live in fear of being arrested?" Nearly every hand went up.
Callton is sponsoring House Bill 5580, which he said would guide municipalities on how to regulate marijuana distribution centers. Attorney Michael Komorn of Southfield said it also would reduce the ways some county prosecutors and sheriffs have curtailed legal access.

The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. Callton expects it won't come to a vote in the full House until next year.

Callton said he's one of a handful of Republican lawmakers who say Michiganders should have fewer obstacles to obtaining medical marijuana. That represents a big change of heart for the chiropractor, who said he voted against allowing medical marijuana in Michigan when the statewide vote was held in 2008, but then began seeing patients who benefited from medical marijuana.

One was "a sweet 75-year-old lady, definitely not a hippie," who was able with medical-marijuana candies to control her tremors from Parkinson's disease "enough to get a good night's sleep again," he said.

Members of the Birmingham Compassion Club hope the bill passes, said club director Chad Carr. "A lot of us need protection" from overzealous police, Carr said.

Contact Bill Laitner: 313-223-4485 or

LA City Council votes to ban marijuana shops

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Source: Associated Press writer Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.

LOS ANGELES  -  Unable to rein in hundreds of medical pot shops that blossomed around the nation's second-biggest metropolis, the Los Angeles City Council banned them Tuesday until the state's highest court weighs in.

The 14-0 vote drew an angry, profanity-laced response from some medical marijuana advocates who attended the council meeting.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was prepared to sign the ordinance, according to his spokeswoman, Vicki Curry. The storefront ban would then go into effect after 30 days.

In the interim, letters will be sent to as many as 900 dispensaries advising them of the ban.

The city has fumbled with its medical marijuana laws for years, trying to provide safe and affordable access to the drug for legitimate patients while addressing worries by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and pot users.

"Relief is on the way," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who introduced the so-called "gentle ban."

Many cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances, but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles, where pot shops have proliferated. At one point, the city ordered closure of the shops — a process that failed amid lawsuits and conflicting rulings by appellate courts.

This time around, the city has a stronger case if faced with lawsuits by pot shop owners, city officials said. A recent appellate court ruling seems to support the new ordinance that refers to a marijuana collective as three or fewer people.

The ban also allows hospices and home health agencies to provide medical pot.
"A judge could file an injunction but we think that is unlikely," said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney.

The ban comes during a confusing time for Californians — despite voter approval in 1996 for medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The state Supreme Court has decided to clarify marijuana's hazy legal status by addressing whether local governments can ban medical marijuana clinics. But a hearing has yet to be set by the high court.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities have cracked down on pot clinics around the state, saying such operations remain illegal under federal law.

Los Angeles passed an ordinance two years ago that was supposed to shutter hundreds of pot dispensaries while capping the number in operation at 70. But a set of legal challenges against the city by collectives and last month's expiration of the ordinance thanks to a sundowner clause led to another surge of pot shops. City officials said 762 collectives have registered with the city and as many as 200 more could exist.

"We need to start with a clean slate," Councilman Mitchell Englander said before the vote. "Los Angeles has experimented with marijuana and has failed."

However, the ban could be temporary for some dispensaries. A motion made by Councilman Paul Koretz called for city staff to draft an ordinance that would allow for about 180 pot shops to be reopened that were in business before a moratorium was enacted several years ago. That motion isn't expected to be considered for several months.

After the vote Tuesday, some medical marijuana advocates shouted expletives, while others questioned where they could get the drug in the future.
"You don't care about people!" yelled one person.

At least 178 California cities from Calistoga to Camarillo and 20 counties already have banned retail pot shops, according to the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

Reflecting the murky language of the state's medical marijuana laws, a handful of dispensaries have successfully challenged such local prohibitions in court along with laws that merely sought to regulate dispensaries.

Most recently, an appeals court in Southern California struck down Los Angeles County's 2-year-old ban on dispensaries, ruling that state law allows cooperatives and collectives to grow, store and distribute pot. But in a separate case, an appeals court said federal law pre-empts local municipalities from allowing pot clinics.

The hearing came a day after a priest, drug counselors and others decried crime and other social problems they say surround neighborhood marijuana dispensaries.
Among those who spoke at that gathering was a woman who complained about having to push her baby's stroller through clouds of marijuana smoke near dispensaries in her East Hollywood neighborhood.

Daniel Sosa, a medical marijuana advocate, told council members during the hearing it's fruitless to approve a ban that won't have any merit, and will likely lead to more lawsuits.

"If you can't enforce it, why are you going to pass something?" Sosa asked the council.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harper Government Invests to Create Value from Hemp Waste

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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, July 18, 2012
- Flax and hemp producers could soon benefit from a major increase in value per acre. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced today that Advanced Foods and Materials (AFM) Canada is receiving an important investment to turn by-products of flax and hemp into high-quality fiber.

"This technology will create a new revenue stream for farmers by using what were essentially waste products and getting value for them back at the farm gate," said Minister Ritz. "Our government strongly supports this kind of innovation, which will keep Canada's agricultural sector sustainable and our economy strong."

AFM will use this $500,000 investment to increase production capabilities of the technology developed by Blue Goose Biorefineries.

The development of this technology will substantially increase the value per acre of hemp and flax crops by finding uses for parts of plants that are currently considered waste. The increased production and availability of high-value cellulose products will create jobs in manufacturing, transportation, and research and development, to the benefit of the agricultural sector and Canada's economy as a whole. The technology also benefits the environment by expanding biorefining capabilities.

"We are pleased to lead the scale-up of this technology and are looking forward to working with Blue Goose, POS Bio-Sciences, and the University of Saskatchewan," said Perry Lidster, AFM Canada Managing Director. "The project will have a positive impact on the value of Canadian crops and will create new opportunities for innovation and competitiveness with the end products that are produced."

"The Blue Goose Biorefineries project is a prime example of how collaboration can work synergistically among academia, industry, and government in matching research activities with strategic industrial needs for the betterment of the socio-economic welfare of the agri-food sector in Canada," added Rickey Yada, AFM Canada Scientific Director.

AFM is a national non-profit organization in the research, development, and commercialization service for innovations in the biomaterials, food, and health sectors. For more information, please visit

This project is funded under the Agricultural Innovation Program — a $50-million initiative announced as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan 2011 and part of the Government's commitment to help Canadian producers benefit from cutting-edge science and technology. The Program boosts the development and commercialization of innovative new products, technologies, and processes for the agricultural sector. For more information about this and other Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs, please visit

For more information, media may contact:

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario

Meagan Murdoch
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz

Medical Marihuana Regulatory Reform 2011 Consultations Results

In recent years, a wide range of stakeholders including police and law enforcement, fire officials, physicians, municipalities, and program participants and groups representing their interests, have identified concerns with the current Marihuana Medical Access Program (MMAP).

To address these concerns, an online and in-person consultation process was launched between June - November 2011, to gather comments from interested parties on the proposed improvements to the Program. Input from these consultations will be considered in the development of new regulations.

Here's what they said:


The Results

  1. Physician - patient interaction
  2. Patient access
  3. Proof of legal possession
  4. Licensed production


Friday, July 20, 2012

Discovery Of Cannabis ‘Pharma Factory’

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Source: Brett Smith for

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have identified the chemical pipeline used by Cannabis sativa to create its signature psychoactive cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, according to their report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Cannabinoid production is a different kind of process that involves an enzyme, called olivetolic acid cyclase (OAC), which has never before been seen in plants, according to the U of S research team led by Jon Page, an adjunct professor of biology at the university.

“What cannabis has done is take a rare fatty acid with a simple, six-carbon chain and use it as a building block to make something chemically complex and pharmacologically active,” Page says.

The research team included PhD student Steve Gagne, who discovered OAC, and postdoctoral researcher Jake Stout, who discovered another key enzyme in the cannabinoid-producing process, hexanoyl-CoA synthetase (reported earlier this year in The Plant Journal).

Cannabis has been cultivated for thousands of years to make food, fiber, medicine and psychoactive drugs, both legal and illicit. Cannabinoids, such as THC, are produced on the flowering buds of the female plant in tiny hair-like structures called trichomes.

In the study, the researchers genetically sequenced isolated trichome cells to identify which genes are involved in cannabinoid production. After isolating these genes, they were then able to produce the newly discovered key enzymes. These enzymes have already been used to spark the production of olivetolic acid, a key metabolic intermediate, in yeast cultures.

“Now that we know the pathway, we could develop ways to produce cannabinoids with yeast or other microorganisms, which could be a valuable alternative to chemical synthesis for producing cannabinoids for the pharmaceutical industry,” Page says.

The pharmacological study of cannabinoids has typically been based on the structure of naturally-occurring herbal cannabinoids. Newer synthetic compounds have been developed by making systematic, incremental modifications of cannabinoid molecules and are either based on the structure of the naturally produced compounds or are completely unrelated to natural cannabinoids.

Many countries have either decriminalized or legalized drugs made from cannabis. More than 19,000 patients in Canada are authorized to use marijuana through a prescription and stand to benefit from the effects of cannabinoids, which includes pain relief, nausea suppression and appetite stimulation.

The United States has also been progressing toward a more THC-tolerant society with the adoption of a 2003 patent entitled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants“, which was awarded to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This patent asserts that cannabinoids are useful in treating chronic conditions including “age-related, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases.”

In addition to identifying plants for use in the production of prescription drugs, plant breeders can now look for cannabis strains that lack the mechanisms necessary for cannabinoid production.

These zero-THC varieties can be used for everything from textiles to rope. Hemp seed, which is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, is also marketed for its healthy qualities and benefits. The seed is used in everything from lactose-free hemp milk, cereals, snacks and protein supplements for athletes.

What are CBD's? Are they healthy?

Image Caption: Hemp forms of Cannabis sativa are primarily grown in Canada for seed, which is produced on the female plants in this mixed plot. The seed has a healthy mix of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids is high in protein, and its oil is used in both food and cosmetic products. Credit: Jan Slaski (Alberta Innovates: Technology Futures)

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Big Mistake In Obama's War on Medical Marijuana

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source: Huff Post

For over a year now, the Obama Administration has been steadily escalating its assault on medical marijuana. What was already a mess has been getting worse from one week to the next, and each new attack revives the question of whether the feds have finally taken things too far.

If we aren't there yet, we may well be getting pretty damn close. As the Huffington Post reported last week:

SAN FRANCISCO -- An Oakland medical marijuana dispensary that has been billed as the largest pot shop on the planet has been targeted for closure by federal prosecutors in Northern California, suggesting that a crackdown on the state's medical marijuana industry remains well under way.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has threatened to seize the Oakland property where Harborside Health Center has operated since 2006, as well as its sister shop in San Jose, executive director and co-founder Steve DeAngelo said Wednesday. His employees found court papers announcing asset forfeiture proceedings against Harborside's landlords taped to the doors at the two locations on Tuesday.

What makes this event stand out is Harborside's unparalleled reputation for safety, security and compliance with local laws. The decision to target them contradicts an April interview in which President Obama told Rolling Stone that enforcement efforts focused only on dispensaries that illegally sold marijuana for non-medical use.

Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated that position last month, saying, "We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law." He added that dispensaries may also be targeted if they are too close to a school, and indeed, numerous dispensaries have been shut down for operating within 1,000 feet of a school, even in the absence of any actual problems or complaints.

Yet Harborside is not located within 1,000 feet of a school, nor has the organization ever been accused of violating state or local laws. To the contrary, the group is nationally-recognized as the leading example of a well-run, well-regulated medical marijuana provider. National news outlets routinely feature stock footage from inside the facility, where cameras have always been welcome. The group has operated like an open book from the beginning, believing that a transparent and responsible approach would lend legitimacy to the industry.

How then would the feds justify targeting a place that everyone loves? Ironically, by claiming it's too popular:

I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need. - U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag

This explanation not only contradicts the excuses offered by the president and attorney general, it's also about as incoherent as anything ever uttered in the long and hideous history of federal officials saying stupid things about medical marijuana. This is literally the exact opposite of the truth, in that one well-managed dispensary that consistently upholds the law eliminates the need for numerous others that might not.

This place, by its very existence, has done more to promote legal compliance in the medical marijuana industry than an army of federal law enforcement officials ever could. It has set a standard of excellence that's reverberated though the industry and reduced the exact sorts of abuses that the feds so cynically claim to be concerned about. Harborside isn't the problem, it's the solution.

That's why the Obama Administration's attack on Harborside is so terribly short-sighted. It exposes the reality that they're more afraid of the best dispensaries than the worst. It leaves Obama with no answer the next time this issue comes up, and he ought to know by now that it will. It pits the president against public opinion, even among republicans, and becomes a particular problem in the key swing state of Colorado. Heck, he's even got a fundraiser scheduled next week in Oakland, and you can bet he'd raise more money if he weren't at war with the very industry that's helped revitalize their local economy.

I have no idea whether Obama himself is as enthusiastic about destroying medical marijuana as the folks at DOJ who've been doing the actual dirty work, but the answer to that question doesn't matter. If Obama can blame Mitt Romney for what Bain Capital did while he was CEO, we can sure as hell blame Obama for what the Justice Department does when he's the president.

He told us we could expect better than this. And yet the problem isn't just that he failed to keep his word, or even that his attorney general rather blatantly lied to Congress about it, as awful as that is. The greatest disgrace in all of this is the perpetuation of a reprehensible policy that crushes the will of voters and the wisdom of legislatures, that stands between sick people and the medicine their doctors recommend, that hands control of cannabis back to cartels that kill people, and that creates a continuing war in our own communities when there could so easily be peace.

Obama once said that undermining medical marijuana laws was a poor use of resources, and he was right. But it's not only a poor use of resources, it's also just plain wrong. As a candidate, and as a leader, it's time for our president to make things right.


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The endocannabinoid system refers to a group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors that are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory; it mediates the psychoactive effects of cannabis and, broadly speaking, includes:

The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, two G protein-coupled receptors that are located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, respectively.

The endogenous arachidonate-based lipids, anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG); these are known as "endocannabinoids" and are physiological ligands for the cannabinoid receptors.

The enzymes that synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids. Unlike traditional neurotransmitters, endogenous cannabinoids are not stored in vesicles after synthesis, but are synthesized on demand (Rodriguez de Fonseca et al., 2004).[citation needed] However, some evidence suggests that a pool of synthesized endocannabinoids (namely, 2-AG) may exist without the requirement of on-demand synthesis.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Asset forfeiture proceedings undertaken against Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif.

Source: Huff Post
Steph Sherer

Obama's Attorney Has Come Unhinged: Melinda Haag's Crusade Against Medical Pot Jeopardizes California's Safety


After working on medical cannabis issues for 10 years, I am rarely shocked by developments in our battle for truth, freedom and compassion. But the unusual public statement just released from Northern California U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has absolutely floored me. Regarding asset forfeiture proceedings undertaken against the commercial landlord of America's largest and most well-known dispensary, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif., Haag said:...

"This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries  that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations".

"I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need".

This press release demonstrates the U.S. Attorney's contempt for needy patients, licensed doctors, and the capabilities of local officials. But apparently Haag's disrespect extends to local policing and public safety.

The statement coincides with an expose on DEA raids carried out under Haag's command in Oakland in April. According to internal emails uncovered by a citizen journalist, Oakland's police were not consulted on the action against Oaksterdam University. As a result, the understaffed force was ill-prepared to handle large demonstrations, federal agents' lack of an "exit strategy," and the daily crimes that require local police attention. Sapping the OPD's strength with a poorly planned raid may even have affected police response to the Oikos University massacre that occurred the same morning a few miles away.

Harborside Health Center Press Conference

As a medical cannabis advocate, I know the impact these actions have on medical cannabis patients who lose access to their medicine; that is why I get up every morning to fight this battle. But this development should wake up every American. In her statement, the U.S. Attorney questions the fitness of local and state officials to issue permits in compliance with their own laws, as well as the judgement of licensed doctors making medical recommendations for their patients.

Should a U.S. Attorney be allowed to carry out a moral crusade? Are local and state officials unable to interpret their own laws? Should cannabis enforcement come at the cost of cities' public safety?

Last month, Eric Holder testified to Congress that his policy on medical marijuana is to take action only against those "operating out of compliance with state laws." With Ms. Haag taking federal law enforcement to an extreme, by all appearances, Holder seems unable to control her if he wanted to. To uphold the administration's stated policy, there is no other choice: Haag must be removed from office.

Patients and their advocates say to Attorney General Holder: it is time to put an end to the medical cannabis crusade and replace Ms. Haag. Join us by signing our petition with the Courage Campaign telling Holder to be a man of his word and stop the raids. If you live in Northern California, tell President Obama's campaign to take control of his law enforcement officials and fire Ms. Haag -- call them and say, "I want Obama's administration to stop raiding dispensaries -- fire Melinda Haag!"

President Obama should not underestimate the power of our movement. The medical cannabis movement survived for eight years under Bush, we will survive Obama and we can certainly survive under the likes of Mitt Romney.

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