Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pot Smokers Can Be Fired In States with Legal Medical Marijuana, Rule Colorado Judges

source: Medical Daily
By Ashik Siddique

Even in states where recreational and medical marijuana use is legal, pot smokers can be fired after failing drug tests, ruled judges in a Colorado court against quadriplegic plaintiff Brandon Coats.


 Pot smokers can be fired by their employers in states where recreational and medical marijuana use is legal, ruled the Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday. Even if they only use cannabis while off duty and are unimpaired at work, their jobs are still on the line if they fail a drug test.

The plaintiff in the case is 33-year-old Brandon Coats, a Dish Network telephone operator, reported Reuters. Coats has been a medical marijuana user since 2009, after a car crash left him a quadriplegic.

He was fired by Dish in 2010 after a company drug test, even though there was no evidence of impairment from the effects of pot while on the job.

Coats sued to keep his job, and after a district court upheld his termination in 2011 he appealed the ruling. Judges in the Colorado appeals court upheld the decision in a 2 to 1 vote.

Medical marijuana use has been legal in Colorado since 2000, and recreational use was approved in November 2012. Since cannabis is still federally illegal, however, the court decided that pot smokers can be fired because they have no federal employment protection.

"This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law," Coats' attorney, Michael Evans, told the Associated Press.

Evans plans to appeal the decision that pot smokers can be fired in Colorado to the state's supreme court, he added to Reuters. 

The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, with a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use, despite a well-established and expanding body of evidence regarding its therapeutic value. Among other conditions, medical cannabis is often prescribed for chronic pain, migraines, sleeping disorders, nausea, glaucoma, sleeping disorders, and anxiety.

Medical marijuana is currently allowed in 18 states including Colorado, and several more states currently have legislation in the works.

In other states with liberal cannabis laws, rulings similar to that of the Coats case have also found that pot smokers can be fired because of the conflict with federal policy.

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization advocacy group, believes that employment law about marijuana use will soon catch up with shifting attitudes in the United States.

"Culturally, it will occur even more quickly, as a majority of Americans now think marijuana should be legal for adults," he told Reuters.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

As Maine and other states look to legalize marijuana, funding cuts cloud medical research

 Source: BDN Maine
Posted April 20, 2013, at 10:09 a.m.
 An employee of Ganja Gourmet in Denver, Colo., restocks "top shelf" medical marijuana on 
April, 17, 2013.
An employee of Ganja Gourmet in Denver, Colo., restocks &quottop shelf" medical marijuana on April, 17, 2013. 
 SAN FRANCISCO — As more states embrace legalized marijuana, the drug’s growing medicinal use has highlighted a disturbing fact for doctors: scant research exists to support marijuana’s health benefits.

Smoked, eaten or brewed as a tea, marijuana has been used as a medication for centuries, including in the United States, where Eli Lilly sold it until 1915. The drug was declared illegal in 1937, though its long history has provided ample anecdotal evidence of the plant’s potential medicinal use. Still, modern scientific studies are lacking.

What’s more, the federal government is scaling back its research funding. U.S. spending has dropped 31 percent since 2007 when it peaked at $131 million, according to a National Institutes of Health research database. Last year, 235 projects received $91 million of public funds, according to NIH data.

That’s left the medical community in a bind: current literature on the effects of medical cannabis is contradictory at best, providing little guidance for prescribing doctors.

“What’s happening in the states is not related to science at all,” said Donald Vereen, a former adviser to the last three directors of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“It’s difficult to get good information,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of RAND Corp.’s drug policy research center. Kilmer is also part of a group selected to advise the state of Washington on its legalization effort.

Two states, Washington and Colorado, have fully legalized the drug. A bill in the Maine Legislature calls for a statewide referendum to fully legalized and tax marijuana use for other than medical reasons.

A federal bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st District, would no longer define marijuana use as a federal crime.

Eighteen states, including Maine allow its use for medical reasons and 17, including New York, have legislation pending to legalize it.

Vereen, the NIDA adviser, says that most doctors’ and policymakers’ knowledge on the subject stems from a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit that serves to provide information about health science for the government. The group summed up its findings saying cannabis appeared to have benefits, though the drug’s role was unclear.

The IOM report recommended clinical trials of cannabinoid drugs for anxiety reduction, appetite stimulation, nausea reduction and pain relief. It also found that the brain develops tolerance to marijuana though the withdrawal symptoms are “mild compared to opiates and benzodiazapines.”
“We don’t know that much more than what’s in that report,” said Vereen.

Vereen, for one, says marijuana’s effects on pain without the withdrawal symptoms associated with other medications are deserving of further study to develop better pain drugs.

Subsequent research suggests marijuana may help stimulate appetite in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, help improve muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients, mitigate nerve pain in those with HIV-related nerve damage and reduce depression and anxiety. It’s even been suggested that an active ingredient, THC, may prevent plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s, according to a 2006 study by the Scripps Research Institute.

Still, fewer than 20 randomized controlled trials, the gold standard for clinical research, involving only about 300 patients have been conducted on smoked marijuana over the last 35 years, according to the American Medical Association, the U.S.’s largest doctor group.

A few small companies are trying to tap into an emerging market for marijuana therapies, which could exceed $1 billion in California alone, according to Mickey Martin, director of T-Comp Consulting in Oakland, Calif., which advises people who want to set up their own cannabis businesses.

His model of about 750,000 cannabis patients found that the estimated spending from California’s patient population is $1.1 billion, including $56 million in doctors’ fees and about $1 billion in medicine. That assumes roughly two-thirds of the patient population will pay $40 a week for medication, Martin said. Cannabis Science Inc., CannaVest Corp., and Medical Marijuana Inc. are among a handful of companies developing drugs based on cannabis research or medical marijuana itself.

Until more laws change, it will be difficult to study an illegal substance with the goal of turning it into a medication, researchers say. And since it’s illegal to grow, marijuana isn’t subjected to the rigorous quality control most medicines are, raising concerns patients may be at risk from contaminants, said Vereen.

Marijuana advocates point out inherent obstacles to conducting research: the National Institute on Drug Abuse controls all the cannabis used in approved trials, but the agency’s mandate is to study abuse of drugs, not health benefits.

This creates dilemmas. The Food and Drug Administration, for instance, has approved a clinical trial studying whether marijuana can relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The trial, however, which is in the second of three stages of clinical testing, is blocked. NIDA, which controls the legal testing supply of the drug grown at a University of Mississippi farm, has refused to supply the researchers with marijuana.

“NIDA is under a mandate from Congress to find problems with marijuana,” said Bob Melamede, CEO of Cannabis Science Inc., a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company that develops medicines derived from marijuana. “If you want to run a study to show it cures cancer, they will not provide you with marijuana,” he said. “What you cannot do are the clinical studies that are necessary.”
Attempts to expand licensed facilities beyond the University of Mississippi farm, have been denied, including a petition from University of Massachusetts agronomist Lyle Craker. The Drug Enforcement Administration denied that request in 2011, reversing a 2007 recommendation from its own administrative law judge, Mary Ellen Bittner.

NIDA also administered the most projects from 2003 to 2012, overseeing $713 million split among 1,837 research efforts. The bulk of the funding in the past decade was devoted to evaluating marijuana’s risks, potential negative impacts on the brain and developing prevention and treatment strategies, according to NIDA.

“There’s been a significant amount of study, but not clinical research,” said Brad Burge, a spokesman for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non- profit research and advocacy group. What’s lacking, says Burge, is “research intended to move marijuana, the plant, through the path to prescription approval by the FDA.”

For now, the research that does exist is often contradictory. A survey of 4,400 people found that those who consumed marijuana daily or at least once a week reported less depressed mood than non-users, according to a 2005 report in the journal Addictive Behaviors. A 2010, however, study in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse of 14,000 found that anxiety and mood disorders were more common in those who smoked almost every day or daily.

Still, people continue to swear by medical marijuana. Cathy Jordan, 63, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at 36 and given 3 to 5 years to live. She smoked marijuana, a strain called Myakka Gold, on a Florida beach with friends, and from that day “the disease just stopped,” said her husband Bob, 65.

“All cannabis seems to work, and it’s slowed the progression,” he said in a telephone interview. They think marijuana may interfere with a neurotransmitter, glutamate, that can have harmful effects in the disease “but we’re just guessing here. All we know is when she doesn’t have it, she gets sick and when she does have it, she doesn’t get sick.”

On Feb. 25, they were raided for growing 23 plants for Cathy’s use. Bob was charged, though the prosecutors declined to press charges because of the medical records the couple supplied, he said. Currently, Cathy is the president of FL CAN, an advocacy group meant to generate support for changing marijuana policies.

Doctors’ attitudes are also shifting in favor of easing marijuana restrictions. The American Medical Association, the nation’s biggest doctor organization has called for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I status, a designation that declares it has no accepted medical use.

The American College of Physicians, the second-largest U.S. doctor organization with 133,000 members, also wants criminal penalties waived for doctors who prescribe marijuana and patients who smoke it. The drug could be useful to treat multiple sclerosis, nausea and pain, based on preliminary studies and pre-clinical lab work, the group said in a 2008 position paper calling for more research.
For the first time, a majority of Americans say they support legalization, according to a survey released April 4 by the Pew Research Center.

As those views trickle up to law makers, there’s little doubt that the easing of marijuana restrictions on the state level will continue.

“We are in the middle of the river,” said Roger Roffman, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington’s school of social work who has studied marijuana use more than 20 years. “Change is happening so rapidly with both medical marijuana and non-medical marijuana, that it is too early to know what’s likely happening in terms of the effect.”

Similar articles from source:

Mass. bill would legalize medical marijuana
Medical marijuana to be OK in some VA clinics
Advocacy group on pain dissolves as senators launch probe
Drug overdoses surpass AIDS as leading cause of homeless deaths
Doctors wary of medical marijuana program
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marijuana's $42 Billion Question


source: Forbes
Quentin Hardy

The U.S. marijuana is a $113 billion annual business that costs taxpayers $41.8 billion in enforcement costs and lost tax revenues, according to a study to be published later Monday.

The study, "Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws," by Jon Gettman, contends that marijuana sales are mostly the province of teenagers and young adults. His numbers also imply that the industry is supported, in both demand prices, by a relatively few extremely heavy users.

The study used diverse sources including government studies, private research and even High Times magazine to determine that about 25 million Americans consume an estimated total of 31 million pounds of pot annually. The number of users, and the price paid for pot, have changed little over recent years, despite continual government interdiction and incarceration efforts, the study says.

Based on government assumption that some 28.7% of U.S. gross domestic product ends up as tax revenue on a federal, state or local basis, the $113 billion could yield $31 billion in taxes. Assuming that marijuana offenses, which are 5.54% of all arrests, take an equal share of the country's $193 billion in annual criminal justice expenditures, Gettman finds another $10.7 billion in annual savings.

Gettman, who has a Ph.D. in public policy from George Mason University and publishes extensively on the pot business, admits that his numbers are at best rough, but contends they represent an accurate study of what keeping pot illegal costs. "The real answers are somewhere inside the bands" of all the published studies, he says. "It would be interesting to see what the government did with another $42 billion."

The report is available at, the Web site of The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform, Gettman's organization.

Away from the headline numbers, a closer examination of Gettman's work carries a couple of interesting surprises. The annual 31 million pounds of pot consumed works out to a daily consumption equivalent by American pot smokers of 1.5 to 1.75 of the 85-by-25-millimeter (length and circumference, respectively) standard joint that the U.S. government rolls for in its studies. Most users don't fire up that much, however.

Of the 25 million annual users, some 12.8 million people over the age of 18 use pot monthly, and about 23% of these smoke three or more joints a day. In this, marijuana seems much like the alcohol business, which relies on 20% of its consumers for more than half of its consumption.

In addition, Gettman's work says that 54.8% of children aged 12-17 and 52.8% of adults over the age of 35 say marijuana would be easy for them to get. The number spikes by as much as 20 percentage points for people between those ages.

In terms of drug selling, however, the numbers skew lower: According to a government study quoted in the report, 3.2% of kids 12-17 have sold drugs, while for those 18 to 24 the number is 6%. It falls to 2.3% for people 25 to 34, and to a mere 0.7% for the 35-and-over set. While this number applies to all drug sales, and not just pot, Gettman maintains that licit marijuana would drive many young dealers out of business.

"Right now, kids buy from other kids," he says. "The fixed costs of entry are quite affordable for a 16-year-old. We don't have that structure in the liquor business. There is an economic incentive for a child to do this, and no control under the current regimen."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Marijuana Legalization 2013: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act Would Ban Federal Crackdowns

 Show your American Pride! .US just $3.99 

source: Louise Connelly

marijuana, legalization, 2013:, respect, state, marijuana, laws, act, would, ban, federal, crackdowns, A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress today would, if passed, protect individual marijuana consumers, as well medical and non-medical marijuana businesses operating in states in which they are legal. If the law is approved, it would shelte both medical and recreational users from prosecution under federal marijuana laws.

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), would modify the Controlled Substances Act so that anyone acting in compliance with a state marijuana law would be immune from federal prosecution. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, H.R. 1523, would add the following provision to the current law:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the pro-visions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana."

Republicans and Democrats are coming together in support of the legislation that would prohibit the government from interfering with state marijuana laws. Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Don Young (R-Ark.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

"This bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states' marijuana laws," said Rohrabacher. "It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don't want it to be criminal."

The widespread bipartisan support for the bill reflects a national trend that, for the first time in more than four decades, shows a majority of Americans in favor of legalizing the use of marijuana. A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center found that 60% of Americans believe the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal. The survey found that 65% of Millennials favor legalizing the use of marijuana, nearly double the 36% support in 2008.

There also has been a striking change in long-term attitudes among older generations, particularly Baby Boomers, 50% of whom now favor legalizing marijuana.

While the bill does not attempt to legalize the drug in individual states, it would immunize individuals in states taking measures to reform marijuana laws from federal prosecution.

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. In November, voters in Colorado and Washington State took steps towards legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older and directing state regulatory bodies to create regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

"Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs because most Americans no longer support it," said Steve Fox, the national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This legislation presents a perfect opportunity for members to embrace the notion that states should be able to devise systems for regulating marijuana without their citizens having to worry about breaking federal law."
Support for the bill arises from not just moral, but practical and financial grounds as well.

The Pew survey released last week found agreement across partisan and demographic groups that federal government enforcement of marijuana laws is not worth the cost. 78% of independents, 71% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans say government enforcement efforts cost more than they are worth. A 2007 study by Jon Gettman of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis estimates that the marijuana industry costs U.S. taxpayers roughly $42 billion annually in enforcement costs and lost tax revenues.

"If a state chooses to take marijuana sales away from cartels and the criminal market and put them in the hands of legitimate, tax-paying businesses, it should be able to do so without federal interference," said Fox.

Have an opinion either way? Write to your state representative to voice your thoughts. Those with high hopes for the bill can send an automated message through the MPP.

Picture Credit: CBS News

Thursday, April 11, 2013

‘Guru of ganja’ tells Michigan crowd: Legalization ‘cured’ need for medical marijuana

Source: The RAW STORY
By Stephen C. Webster

["Hippy Preparing, Rolling And Smoking Marijuana Joint" on Shutterstock]Speaking to a crowd gathered Saturday for Michigan’s annual “Hash Bash” and marijuana legalization protest in Ann Arbor, former “High Times” columnist and self-proclaimed “Guru of ganja” Ed Rosenthal declared that the successful legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington last November have “cured” him of his need for medical marijuana.

Marijuana Millionaire: How To Make $1Million Dollars A Year In The Medical Marijuana Industry!“Up to then, I had been using marijuana medically,” he said. “Then, when the polls came in and it showed that marijuana was made legal, I found that I had been cured. Cured! I would no longer need a prescription to get it. Hallelujah!”

Rosenthal’s joking issuance of a clear
prognosis is likely to give ammo to drug reform critics who say that medical marijuana legalization is just another step down the road to regulating adult use and over-the-counter purchases. Still, thousands of onlookers cheered wildly as he spoke, laughing along with his sarcasm.

“Marijuana needs no defense,” Rosenthal insisted. “Talking to people about how good marijuana is here is like talking to the choir. Amen?”

The protest, held on the University of Michigan campus, also featured Michigan state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D), calling on reform advocates to begin communicating their desires to officials at all levels of government.

“I believe we need to legalize marijuana,” Irwin said. “The amount of blood and treasure we’ve spilled in this drug war is an embarrassment to our country.”

He added that numerous local initiatives across Michigan in recent years inspired him to move on drug reform in the legislature. “When I saw that kind of activity, I said, ‘I need to step up and do my part,’” Irwin explained. “‘I need to introduce a decriminalization bill in the state legislature.’”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Marijuana superstore opens in Seattle, Washington


Instead of a state-run liquor store, a building in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood now holds “the Whole Foods of weed,” according to the man who owns the business inside.
Green Ambrosia opened last Saturday and is the city’s biggest medical marijuana dispensary.

The opening comes as Washington’s Liquor Control Board and lawmakers decide how to regulate recreational marijuana sales in the wake of Initative 502, which legalized the use and possession of small amounts of pot.

“This could be the face of what I-502 enabled pot looks like,” explained Green Ambrosia owner Dante Jones.

Jones’ business has operated since 2011, but only recently opened a storefront.  Inside, behind a bamboo wall, is one large glass table loaded with jars of marijuana.  There are restrictions on how much medical marijuana a business can have on sale.

While planning for whatever regulations may come from I-502, Jones said Saturday he is not sure how licensing will work.

“We’re preparing for it,” he said, “As a business owner, the only thing I can hope for is that they’re going to continue the same set of standards (included in the initative).”

Public forums are being held across the state on how to license recreational marijuana.  No matter what the state decides, it is still possible the federal government could take action against Washington State since, according to federal law, marijuana is still illegal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry starting to take shape

 source: The Daily Caller - Greg Campbell

People who plan to sell legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado will be spared the hassle and expense of having to grow it themselves, thanks to the suggestion of an ad hoc committee of state lawmakers hammering together a workable bill for regulating legal pot.

Lawmakers have less than a month to introduce and vote on a wide-ranging bill that addresses everything from labeling standards for marijuana-infused products to tax rates.

They’ve relied heavily on the recommendations of a special task force that has been studying marijuana’s myriad issues since shortly after voters legalized the drug in November.

But in opting not to require future retailers to grow most of the pot they sell, they’ve deviated from the task force’s advice, which was to follow the model currently in place for medical marijuana. Under that system, dispensaries are required to be vertically integrated and must grow at least 70 percent of the pot they sell.

This was originally meant as a way to track marijuana from seed to sale and ensure that the pot sold didn’t come from the black market.

But a withering state audit released earlier this year found that medical marijuana regulators weren’t properly monitoring the industry.

“(Regulators) do not regularly determine compliance with other key features of the vertical integration model, such as the requirement that dispensaries grow 70 percent of the medical marijuana that they sell,” the audit said.

Lawmakers have instead chosen to set up a system more like that governing liquor, in which people in the industry can either produce or sell.

The decision, taken on the committee’s last day of work Monday, was met with mixed reactions by those in the marijuana community.

On one hand, existing medical marijuana businesses — which are by and large expected to convert to recreational retail establishments once the rules are decided — have endured a seemingly endless gauntlet of onerous regulations to remain in business. That includes the “grow your own” rule that required dispensaries to take on the substantial added expense of establishing a commercial grow operation.

But those who are opposed to vertical integration think a more flexible approach will encourage competition.

Jessica LaRoux, a marijuana activist, emailed lawmakers that the requirement for vertical integration means that “only the most well-funded current medical entities from the big city will be able to expand into new locations,” according to the Denver Post.

It’s also an unnecessary “pain in the ass,” attorney Warren Edson told the Westword newspaper.
“Medical marijuana is one of the few industries, if not the only industry, where retailers are forced to own the whole line of production,” he said. “It’s a huge pain in the ass to run a business like that — and to force that model into retail is ludicrous, particularly given that Colorado voted to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and alcohol is just the opposite.”

The committee also tackled the thorny issue of taxing marijuana. The amendment passed by voters in November requires the first $40 million raised in an excise tax be spent on schools, but Coloradans are required to vote on all new taxes. Lawmakers are in the delicate position of needing an excise tax for education, and a sales tax high enough to pay for enforcing regulations but not so high that legal pot would be significantly more expensive than black market pot.

They’ve proposed a 15 percent excise tax and a new 15 percent sales tax on top of various other local taxes. In some communities, the Associated Press reports that recreational marijuana could be taxed at a nearly 40 percent rate.

Coloradans are expected to vote on the taxes in November.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pew poll: Most say legalize marijuana

Marijuana plants are pictured. | AP Photo

Source: Politico

A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana for the first time in 40 years, according to a poll released Thursday.

In the Pew Research Center poll released Thursday, 52 percent support legalizing the drug and only 45 percent oppose legalization. While support has generally tracked upward over time, it has spiked 11 points since 2010.

 The first public poll on legalizing marijuana, taken by Gallup in 1969, found a whopping 84 percent of the country opposed.

In November 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado both decided to legalize marijuana, becoming the first two states to do so. Three-fifths of Americans said the federal government shouldn’t enforce marijuana laws in those states. And 72 percent said the government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they’re worth.

Support for legal weed use has increased across age groups, genders, education levels, ideologies and ethnic backgrounds since 2010. The largest jumps have come from Hispanics, where support rose from 35 percent to 51 percent, and moderate or liberal Republicans, who increased support from 36 percent to 53 percent. Support is lower among older people, and among Republicans and conservatives.

That increase in support has come as Americans move away from a moralistic opposition to smoking weed. In 2006, 50 percent of Americans said smoking marijuana was morally wrong. Today, the same number says it is not a moral issue.

The poll of 1,501 adults was conducted from March 13 to March 17. It has a margin of error of plus

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