Sunday, November 25, 2012

Backward thinking on hemp; Feds must allow states to restart industry


Feds must allow states to restart industry with history of success

On questions surrounding cannabis aka marijuana aka hemp, the states are light years ahead of the federal government.

The Obama administration and Congress should get out of the way of state reforms aimed at transforming a vast underground economy into a regulated source of taxation.

Unlike about half the states, Kentucky has shown little official interest in legitimizing marijuana for medical or recreational use.

But there is long-standing support in Kentucky for bringing back a crop that was once common here. Fiber, oil and seed from industrial hemp are in demand by U.S. manufacturers but now have to be imported.

How ridiculous is this? A hemp stalk grown to make fabric or cosmetics is classified by federal law as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the same as heroin. Cocaine and morphine are Schedule 2 substances, classified as more useful and less harmful than hemp.

This makes no sense, especially as state legislatures and voters move to put marijuana on basically the same legal footing as that other popular intoxicant, alcohol.

We should note that industrial hemp has almost none of the chemical that produces a high in users. Hemp growers cultivate big, fat stalks, while pot growers want big, fat buds. Federal law treats them the same, however, which probably also ties their futures together.

Since voters in Colorado and Washington approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the public has heard nothing from Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the president.

In 2010, Holder vowed to continue prosecuting marijuana possession in California even if voters approved legalization. The measure's defeat averted a showdown.

But on Nov. 6 more Coloradans voted for legalizing marijuana than for Obama.

What's at stake is deeper than politics. The law, like government, derives its authority from the governed. Some in law enforcement say they would feel wrong enforcing a law that a majority of voters has rejected, except, of course, to protect rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In Kentucky, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is asking the legislature to officially urge the federal government to allow cultivation of industrial hemp.

"We just want the freedom to be able to grow a crop that we know will grow well in Kentucky," Comer recently told a legislative committee. Congress should "get out of the way and let the private sector create jobs in rural communities manufacturing this product."

Two senators who couldn't be further apart politically — Kentucky's Rand Paul and Vermont's Bernie Sanders — came together to sponsor a bill legalizing hemp cultivation. That shows how broad support is, and also that another small-farm state sees hemp as a profitable niche.

While we need uniform national standards in some areas — environmental laws, for example, because pollution travels across state lines — states have long been incubators of social policy and innovation.

The war on drugs has largely been a failure, just as alcohol prohibition was a disaster in the last century.

So, why not free states to try something that just might work better?

ryan riley
Cannabis & Health - Science & Research

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Pot Law Raises Questions for Sellers, Police

David Pelcyger
Mary Jo Brooks

 What does legalizing marijuana mean for a dispensary owner? The NewsHour sat down with Steve Horwitz, owner of Ganja Gourmet in Denver, to get his perspective.

DENVER -- When Coloradans legalized recreational marijuana on Election Day, they had a good idea what streets crowded with neon cannabis leaf signs and retail pot outlets would look like. Medical marijuana has been legal under state law for twelve years and the industry is a permanent presence. In Denver, for example, dispensaries outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's combined.
Opinions vary widely on the legal, social and economic implications of Amendment 64, in many cases, because fundamental questions surround the disparities between state and federal law. Will all cities and towns permit pot sales? Will it be taxed? At what level? How will federal enforcement authorities react?

The retail picture is clearer. Medical marijuana dispensaries have established customer bases, sophisticated growing operations and are well-known to state authorities. Dispensary owners know their customers and what it takes to successfully compete in the marijuana market. They also are likely the first stores to be able to sell for recreational use, having completed the required paperwork for a medical license.

 For perspective from law enforcement, the NewsHour also talked with Jerry Peters of the North Denver Drug Task Force.

Many law enforcement officers are not happy about the vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Jerry Peters is a commander with the North Denver Drug Task Force. He says he's seen a dramatic increase in crime over the past four years since medical marijuana dispensaries have been permitted in Colorado. He believes the passage of Amendment 64 will only lead to an increase in violence, theft and drug trafficking.

Already his task force averages five to six marijuana investigations a week. In addition to crime, Peters worries about the social costs of legalized marijuana including youth addiction, driving under the influence and increased workplace accidents.

Friday, November 16, 2012

MMJ dispensaries seeing flood of people looking for legal marijuana

source : Denver Westword

Although Amendment 64 passed last week, Governor John Hickenlooper has told us not to bring out the Cheetos and Goldfish just yet. But apparently people need a firmer reminder that there are more hurdles to be surmounted -- and we're not just talking about the feds -- before pot shops can open in Colorado.

Several dispensary owners have told us non-patients are showing up at their doors asking to buy pot. One told us he hated turning away all those smiling faces, but at least the potential customers seemed to understand once he explained the process.

 I saw the confusion firsthand last week when visiting a dispensary for an upcoming review. While I was waiting in line, two people walked in off the street; with one asking if he could now buy cannabis and the other acting offended when the receptionist asked for his medical marijuana card. Other patients have told us they've spotted signs saying, essentially, "We can't sell you marijuana" on the front door of their regular dispensaries.

Nor will centers be able to sell you marijuana for at least a year -- not unless you have a medical marijuana card.

For starters, Amendment 64 isn't yet part of the Colorado constitution -- not officially. After the election results are certified on December 6, Hickenlooper has thirty days to sign it -- a move he has indicated he will make within that time frame. Once Amendment 64 is signed into law, people 21 years of age and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in this state, and Coloradans will be allowed to grow as many as six plants here. The law will also allow patients to keep their entire harvest, even if it's over an ounce.

But pot shops will still be many months away.

 According to the language in Amendment 64, the Colorado Legislature must draft rules and regulations for the state's new recreational marijuana industry. It has until early May to do so, and then the licensing process will begin in October, with January 2014 the absolute earliest that any store can open -- assuming any want to be the first to challenge federal laws regarding marijuana sales and distribution.

Hickenlooper reached out to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder last Friday for some clarification, but the governor's office is keeping mum about the contents of the conversation. Presumably, then, the Controlled Substances Act as the law that will continue to guide federal officials actions, at least for now.

And though they would clearly love your business, dispensaries aren't willing to risk their current licenses by helping anyone other than registered medical marijuana patients. According to Elliott Klug, owner of the Pink House chain of dispensaries, the day after the election, dozens of people showed up at their doors, eager to buy pot. The excitement is understandable, he says, but "the law is the law."

Medical Marijuana Stock Prices Soar Following Legalization Votes

The Medical Marijuana Business Daily reports that several publicly traded companies serving the medical cannabis industry have soared in the stock market since the election:
Investors pumped money into the sector after Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis for recreational use and Massachusetts passed medical marijuana legislation. In some cases, MMJ-related stocks hit new highs and saw record trading activity, with millions of shares changing hands vs. tens of thousands on a typical day. That’s particularly impressive given that the overall stock market plunged after the election.
 The Daily notes the stocks have dropped somewhat since then, and that not every cannabis business saw its stocks rise with the election. Nevertheless, "the increased investor interest in cannabis bodes well for the future of the industry," they write, "which could grow by leaps and bounds over the next year."

Are the buyers who drove stock prices up last week right to be optimistic? Looking at the market to predict the future of drug policy is kind of like using Intrade to predict a presidential election -- only time will tell at this point. But investors are doubtless thinking about a lot of the same things that we are right now: Will the passage of initiatives to legalize marijuana create political pressure on federal officials to ease up on the medical marijuana industry, or on Congress? How will the feds respond to the legalization votes? They must also wonder, if legalization systems do get established in these states, how will that affect the people (many of them our friends) who've risked much to build a medical marijuana industry serving patients there -- will they be winners or losers in that new business environment?

In the long run, I believe the answer to the first question at least is "yes" -- states enacting marijuana legalization will ultimately put pressure on all the branches of government to do something to accommodate it, while giving an advantage to our allies in government in their efforts to change things. More states will certainly do this, given where public opinion seems headed -- the questions for investors in marijuana are how long that will take, and whether their businesses will survive until then. For advocates, the question is how many lives will be needlessly ruined (again, many of them of our friends) by prohibition in the meanwhile.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

73 Percent of Americans Want Medical Marijuana Legalized

Source: Opposing views
By Reason Foundation

 In October 1969, 84 percent of Americans opposed legalizing the use of marijuana, 12 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-two years later in October 2011, Gallup found for the first time Americans broke the 50 percent threshold favoring legalizing the drug. Today, the November elections mark the first time voters popularly legalized the drug for recreational use. In Colorado, State Constitutional Amendment 64 passed 55 to 45 percent, and in Washington Initiative 502 also passed 55 to 45 percent, legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

 The Reason-Rupe poll conducted this past September also found the nation ripe for drug policy change. The nation is evenly divided over whether to legalize small amount of marijuana for adults, 48 to 48 percent. However, nearly three-fourths believe medical marijuana should be legal with a doctor’s prescription.

Young Americans are much more open to reform, about 59 percent of Americans under 34 favor legalization, as do 56 percent among those 35-44. Middle-aged Americans are evenly split, while seniors are most opposed 64 percent to 29 percent in favor. However, even a majority of seniors (58 percent) favor medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor.

Religiosity highly correlates with position on drug legalization. Sixty-seven percent of those who attend church weekly oppose legalizing recreational pot, but 58 percent support medical marijuana. In contrast 75 percent of those who never attend church favor marijuana legalization, as do 61 percent of those who only attend church a few times a year.

The gender gap emerges for recreational but not medical marijuana. Fifty-two percent of men favor legalizing recreational pot, and 52 percent of women oppose.

Interestingly, significantly more tea party supporters than Republicans favor legalizing marijuana (38 percent to 27 percent). Upwards of 55 percent fo both Democrats and Independents also support legalizing the drug.

It is surprising that only 18 of the 50 states allow medical marijuana given that nearly all political and demographic groups favor medical marijuana with a physician’s prescription.
With 41 years of experience since President Richard Nixon first called for a War on Drugs in 1971, fully 80 percent of Americans think this war has been a failure. Among these Americans a plurality (37 percent) think we should ease up spending on this failed war, but 35 percent think we should keep spending the same, and a quarter think the solution is spending more money.

Despite the fact that majorities of Democrats and Independents want to legalize pot, while nearly two thirds of Republicans want it banned, all political groups are equally likely to want to spend more money fighting the war on drugs (about 25 percent). About a third of all political groups also would spend less money, and roughly 40 percent would spend what we’re doing now.

If a political candidate were to take a stand in favor of treating marijuana like alcohol, thereby legalizing it, 43 percent say it would make no difference in how they voted, 29 percent would be less likely and 26 percent more likely to vote for that candidate. Republicans would be more likely to oppose such a candidate (47 percent) than Democrats (18 percent) or Independents (29 percent). But nationally it only helps a candidate among 31 percent of Democrats, 32 percent of Independents and 13 percent of Republicans.

Colorado and Washington states legalizing recreational marijuana is likely a harbinger of liberalizing drug policy nationwide. Interestingly, state polls before the election underestimated actual support for both measures. In Colorado average support for Amendment 64 was 52 percent, it passed with 55 percent; In Washington average support for Initiative 502 was 51 percent and it also passed with 55 percent of the vote. With national support hovering at about 50 percent, federal bureaucrats may soon find they lack the political support needed to continue the national War on Drugs.

The joint campaign: Should we not legalize recreational use of Cannabis?


NEW DELHI: What two American states, Washington and Colorado, have decided to do - legalize recreational use of marijuana - was the norm in India until 1985. All cannabis derivatives - marijuana (grass or ganja), hashish (charas) and bhang - were legally sold in this country. As a matter of fact, most state governments had their own retail shops to sell these drugs. India has known, consumed and celebrated ganja, charas and bhang for millennia.

Their consumption was never regarded as socially deviant behaviour any more than drinking alcohol was. If there was any bias against ganja or charas, it was that these were often viewed as the poor man's intoxicant by the upper classes. But come Holi, these prejudices would melt away as rich and poor savoured the joyous high of bhang. Even now, despite a legal ban, recreational use of these drugs is widespread in India.

Keeping marijuana legal was actually an enlightened view. It is now medically proven that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. In fact, the good weed has medical uses (as many as 19 US states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes). However, moderation is the key. While excessive and sustained consumption of alcohol can cause severe liver damage leading to death, excessive use of marijuana too can cause some damage, mainly to our sensory abilities. In moderation, marijuana is a gentle mood-altering relaxant.

So, if there is a rational policy towards intoxicants and we allow the sale and consumption of liquor, there is no good reason to not similarly allow sale and consumption of marijuana, hashish and bhang. For years, India has held this position. For 25 years since 1961, it has withstood American pressure to keep marijuana legal. Which brings us to the story of why it was banned in India.

Since 1961, the US has been campaigning for a global law against all drugs, both hard and soft. Given that ganja, charas and bhang were a way of life in India, we opposed the drastic measure. But by the early '80s, American society was grappling with some drug problems and opinion had grown against the "excesses" of the hippie generation. In 1985, the Rajiv Gandhi government buckled under the pressure and enacted a law called the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

It was a poor law that clubbed marijuana, hashish and bhang with hard drugs like smack, heroin, cocaine and crack, and banned them all. The minimum punishment for violation of the NDPS Act was 10 years of jail (it has since been relaxed and the crackdown on marijuana has eased somewhat). What happened as a result of this law was that almost overnight the entire trade shifted from peddling grass or charas to smack or worse. This was because while the risk was the same, profits from the hard-killer drugs were ten times higher.

And suddenly, there was a drugs problem in India. In cities like Delhi, for instance, smack addiction grew. The addicts were mostly poor people - those who had earlier smoked grass were now 'chasing' smack. Newspapers reported cases of men selling off all household goods to get money for a fix. What is significant is that instances of deviant behaviour were rare when marijuana, hashish and bhang were legal. The poorly thought-out NDPS Act had actually created a drugs problem where there was none.

Twenty seven years later, now that some American states have "shown the way", it is time to revisit the ban. When ganja, charas and bhang don't have obvious medical negatives and don't lead to addiction or violent behaviour (which alcohol may be accused of doing), why then should it not be legal as it was in India for centuries? Especially, when there is no social or cultural rejection of them. On the contrary, it is a way of life in our country.

Poorly thought-out laws lead to corruption and the harassment of ordinary people. It also tells on the health of the nation. Instead, the NDPS Act should be amended and soft drugs such as ganja, charas and bhang should be made legal.

What is cannabis?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Legalising ganja in US states will impact Latin American drug war

Source: Go-Jamaca

A group of Latin American leaders has declared that votes by two American states to legalize marijuana will have implications for efforts to quash drug smuggling.

The declaration by the leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica did not explicitly say they were considering weakening their governments' efforts against marijuana smuggling, but it strongly implied the votes last week in Colorado and Washington would make enforcement of marijuana bans more difficult.

The four called for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United Nations' General Assembly should hold a special session on the prohibition of drugs by 2015 at the latest.

Last week, the most influential adviser to Mexico's president-elect, who takes office December 1, questioned how the country will enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug that is now legal under some U.S. state laws.

The Obama administration has yet to make clear how strongly it will enforce a federal ban on marijuana that is not affected by the Colorado and Washington votes.

"It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said after a meeting with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.

Marijuana legalization by U.S. states is "a paradigm change on the part of those entities in respect to the current international system," Calderon said.

Mexico has seen tens of thousands of people killed over the last six years during a militarized government campaign against the country's drug cartels.

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Cops find ganja in boots at Ogle airport

source: Stabroek News

At about 1120h. today, ranks of the Police Narcotics Branch at the Ogle Airport, ECD, stopped and searched a man who was on a local flight to Imbaimadai, Mazaruni, and found 1 kilogram 200 grams of marijuana concealed in the inner souls of three pairs of boots he had in his possession.
The man has been arrested and is in police custody. Charges will be made shortly.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dr. Karen Munkacy: Compassionate choice is for ‘safe and legal access’ to marijuana


By Dr. Karen Munkacy, Guest post

I am a physician with 30 years’ experience, board certified in anesthesiology, fellowship trained in pain management and a breast cancer survivor. I know the importance of yearly mammograms, so when I was informed I had breast cancer in 2004, it came as a shock to me. I had my mammogram the year before and in just one year cancer had invaded my body. I was diagnosed with stage IIIB breast cancer. 

When I was diagnosed my daughter was 17 and my son was 2 years old. To treat the disease, I was given the most aggressive chemotherapy regimen available for advanced breast cancer.

 This was extremely difficult with a toddler and a teenager. My husband and I had to move in with my in-laws during the course of my treatment. For four months, I laid in bed at their house suffering from nausea that was a thousand times worse than any flu, literally feeling like I was going to vomit hundreds of times a day. Taking a Marinol pill (synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol), or THC, available by prescription -- when I was that nauseous didn’t make sense. I didn’t want to take a pill that could be vomited as soon as it was swallowed. 

Living through chemotherapy was absolute hell. But the worst part was the time I missed with my children. I did not have the strength to read my son bedtime stories, listen to him laugh and learn new words every day. At that time, he loved to be chased around, gaining confidence with every step he took. While my family was able to play with him, I laid helplessly in bed for days on end. 

I also missed many milestones of my daughter’s senior year of high school – another thing neither of us will get back. After chemotherapy I went through a double mastectomy with reconstruction and 28 radiation treatments. I decided there had to be a better way for patients to endure cancer treatments.

Throughout my career, patients had told me that medical marijuana provided a significant amount of relief for them.

 As a physician, I was skeptical. It was not until I did my own research on the subject after my struggle with cancer that I discovered medical marijuana provides unique benefits not just for cancer patients, but also for those suffering with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, neuropathic pain, chronic vomiting syndrome, allodynia, ulcerative colitis, as well as many other debilitating conditions, and it is one of the safest medicines any patient can take. 

Since my battle with cancer, I have studied the issue extensively and met with dozens of patients suffering from debilitating conditions who are unnecessarily being forced on to medications with dangerous side effects. 

Carbamazapine, for instance, is prescribed to prevent epileptic seizures, but can cause heart failure or fatal skin disease. Tysabri, prescribed for patients with multiple sclerosis, increases the risk of a fatal brain disease. Baclofen is primarily used for the treatment of spastic movement disorders, especially in instances of spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis, but withdrawal from Baclofen can cause death, if not treated appropriately. Medical marijuana can help address each of these afflictions without the dangerous side effects. 

As a doctor I am confident in the science behind medical marijuana. More than 6,500 reports and journal articles around the world have been published about the medical value of marijuana to patients. Many of them can be found in an online database.

But I am a mother first. I would not be supporting this initiative if I thought it would have a negative impact on my children. I have talked extensively to my now 10-year-old and 25-year-old about the difference between medicine like marijuana that can help people and other prescribed medicine and drugs for recreational use. They fully recognize and respect the difference. 

But the fact that there is such stringent state regulation in the Question 3 initiative is also so important to me. The proposed Massachusetts law is based on the best practices and lessons learned from the 17 other states that dispense medical marijuana. It requires that doctors writing recommendations have a bona fide relationship with their patients and that the state verifies all recommendations.

 It strictly limits the number of treatment centers to 35 nonprofit centers licensed and regulated by the state. 

This initiative will be the safest medical marijuana law in the country. It creates a new felony for anyone who defrauds the medical marijuana system with a penalty of up to five years in prison for distribution. A person who now faces a mere civil fine for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana could be facing a criminal conviction and a jail sentence if they defraud the medical marijuana system. This approach provides greater regulation and oversight than some other states that have not set a limit on treatment centers or the requirements to qualify as a patient for medical marijuana. 

Over 1,200 licensed doctors in Massachusetts have signed a statement in support of safe access to medical marijuana for patients with a doctor’s recommendation. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, AIDS Action Committee, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, New England Coalition of Cancer Survivorship, AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and Chronic Fatigue and Immune Deficiency Foundation have voiced support for safe access.

Seventeen states, including our neighbors Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, the Netherlands, Israel, and Germany offer patients suffering from chronic and debilitating illnesses the ability to use medical marijuana. 

I believe that when voters review the facts, they will have compassion for patients who are suffering from debilitating conditions. Decisions about patient care should be made by doctors and patients not by politicians or law enforcement. I believe that had I used medical marijuana during my treatments I would have had a much better quality of life. However, I refused to bring an illegal substance into my in-laws home. 

As a doctor, I am advocating for safe and legal access to medical marijuana for patients with debilitating conditions because patients should not be denied an effective and safe treatment. As a doctor, cancer patient in remission, wife, and mother I am asking voters to have compassion for anyone who can be helped by medical marijuana.

Dr. Karen Munkacy is a physician certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine now focused on public health initiatives. She is a board member at the Peter Rothschild Foundation in California.

Massachusetts voters on Tuesday will consider become the 18th state to legalize marijuana use and distribution for medical use. This is one of two guest posts from physicians sharing their view on the proposal. 

Also see Dr. James Broadhurst’s take and read more about the debate over marijuana as medicine.

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