MJ News for 01/28/2015


Jul 25, 2008
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Denver airport bans sale of marijuana-themed souvenirs

DENVER — Tourists who fly to Colorado to try legal pot can forget about buying souvenir boxer shorts, socks or sandals with a marijuana leaf on them when passing through the Denver airport.

The airport has banned pot-themed souvenirs, fearing the kitsch could taint the state’s image.

Marijuana possession and any pot-related advertising were already forbidden. Airport executives extended the ban this month after a retailer sought a free-standing kiosk to sell the boxer shorts and similar items that played off Colorado’s place as the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales.

Airport officials feared the souvenirs would send the wrong message.

‘‘We don’t want marijuana to be the first thing our visitors experience when they arrive,’’ airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said.

The spurned retailer is mulling a lawsuit, noting that the souvenirs are legal and that the airport already has a large exhibit celebrating craft brewers, whose product, like marijuana, is legal only for people 21 and older.

‘‘Why is everybody so riled up about the picture of a plant?’’ asked Ann Jordan, owner of High-ly Legal Colorado, which makes the shorts, socks and ‘‘pot flop’’ sandals that are already sold in Denver-area music stores.

But it’s unlikely that Jordan would have a strong claim. Airports have broad discretion to control concession operators, and they can limit free-speech activities, such as handing out brochures.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that airport terminals are not public forums, siding with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey against a religious group that wanted to distribute pamphlets.

The legalization measure approved by Colorado voters in 2012 allows any property owner to prohibit possession of pot, and airports in Denver and Colorado Springs do. Violators face possible civil citations.

Denver International Airport has given no possession citations since legalization, Montgomery said.

Last year, 29 people were caught trying to board planes with marijuana. In each case, police declined to issue citations, and the passengers were allowed to board planes after throwing out the weed.

In Washington state, the only other state with recreational marijuana sales, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport does not ban pot possession or marijuana-themed souvenirs, Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said.

Colorado’s smaller airports don’t ban marijuana-themed souvenirs, either.

Montgomery said the Denver airport has a special obligation as the gateway for many thousands of visitors to the Rocky Mountain region.

‘‘Frankly there’s a lot more to Colorado than pot,’’ Montgomery said.

Jordan considers the souvenir ban an example of long-standing fear surrounding marijuana.

The airport’s beer exhibit consists of an entire walkway devoted to an exhibit titled ‘‘Colorado on Tap: The State of Brew Culture.’’ It features pub glasses, beer labels, and T-shirts from the state’s 250 or so craft brewers. Governor John Hickenlooper is quoted in the display extolling Colorado as ‘‘a mecca for quality beer.’’

‘‘If you’re opposed to drinking and you walk down [the walkway], you just ignore it,’’ Jordan said.

Airport officials, she said, ‘‘just haven’t come to grips that this is a whole new world and they need to adapt.’’

The airport policy bans depictions of the marijuana plant, items with the word ‘‘marijuana’’ and the sale of publications devoted expressly to pot. But airport officials concede they can’t keep out the ubiquitous ‘‘Rocky Mountain High’’ puns and other slogans.

Said Montgomery: ‘‘There’s only so much we can do.’’


Jul 25, 2008
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Doctors Call On DEA To Reschedule Marijuana For Medical Research Purposes

The American Academy of Pediatrics is requesting that the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify marijuana as a less harmful substance in order to facilitate research of the substance for medical use, according to a policy statement released Monday.

"The AAP strongly supports research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids and supports a review of policies promoting research on the medical use of these compounds," the AAP statement reads. To that end, the group recommends that the DEA reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to Schedule II.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. has five "schedules" for drugs and chemicals that can be used to make drugs. Schedule I is reserved for drugs that the DEA considers to have the highest potential for abuse and no "currently accepted medical use." Marijuana has been classified as Schedule I for decades, along with other substances like heroin and LSD. While a lower schedule for marijuana would not make it legal, it could ease restrictions on researching the drug.

While the AAP added that it does not support the legalization of marijuana, citing the potential harms to children and adolescents, it did say that it "strongly" supports the decriminalization of marijuana use and encourages pediatricians to "advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana."

"A focus on treatment for adolescents with marijuana use problems should be encouraged, and adolescents with marijuana use problems should be referred to treatment," the statement said.

Monday's statement is the first change to AAP policy on the issue since 2004. At that time, the group did not request a schedule change.

The DEA is the federal agency that is primarily responsible for regulating controlled substances like marijuana. But the Food and Drug Administration, along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, provides the DEA with recommendations about the appropriate level of restriction for various illicit substances.

The FDA is already engaged in a review of the medical evidence surrounding the safety and effectiveness of marijuana. The evaluation was initiated due to a request from the DEA, following a number of citizens' petitions asking for a review. According to the Controlled Substances Act, the government must consider eight factors when deciding the schedule under which a substance should be classified. These include its potential for abuse, the state of current scientific knowledge about the substance and its psychic or physiological dependence liability.

The FDA could not confirm to The Huffington Post how long the review process takes, but expressed support for AAP's move.

"FDA can’t comment on the suggestion to change the schedule for marijuana, as the latest FDA review of the issue -- known as the 8-factor analysis -- is currently ongoing, FDA press officer Jeff Ventura said Monday. "However, FDA agrees with the call by the AAP for rigorous scientific research into the uses of marijuana ... [and] supports those in the medical research community who seek to study marijuana."

The DEA has made previous requests, in 2001 and 2006, to the FDA for an evaluation of marijuana. Those requests were the results of public petitions requesting a rescheduling, FDA Deputy Director Doug Throckmorton explained in testimony delivered during a congressional hearing last year. But DEA regulators determined after both of those reviews that marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance. The FDA cited insufficient available research about marijuana's effectiveness in treating a number of ailments.

While the FDA hasn't advocated for legalization of the drug, it said in a 2014 update to its guidelines on marijuana that it is "aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders."


Jul 25, 2008
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Ex-techies have high hopes for investing in the cannabis field

Seibo Shen made a lot of money in tech — he was an early employee at four startups that were acquired or went public. But for his latest venture, he didn’t just want to “add another zero to my bank account.”

He wanted to rekindle that startup thrill while selling a product he truly cared about.

So the 38-year-old San Franciscan raised $500,000 to get into the cannabis business. Now, instead of working accounts for months to sell software to businesses, Shen is hawking $650 marijuana vaporizers for his new company, VapeXhale.

It’s a lot quicker to close a deal these days.

“Instead of a 12-month sales cycle, it’s the one-puff cycle,” Shen said, motioning at a glass vaporizer at his company’s booth at a cannabis-industry investor conference this week in San Francisco. “After you try one puff, you’re sold.”

Fueled by many of the same reasons they got into tech, an increasing number of Silicon Valley veterans are investing in the booming cannabis market. As the tech market matures, the fledgling marijuana industry offers a hint of the old startup days, where innovators can write the rules as they go.

And just as techies have long mused, some believe their work will change the world.

The tagline for the ArcView Group’s high-worth pot investors’ conference underscored the mood: “Invest in the Next Great American Industry.”

A year ago, ArcView, a marijuana data and analysis firm, held its gathering in Las Vegas at the D, a hotel where a room goes for $24 on a Wednesday night. This week, the two-day conference was at the Fairmont, where U.S. presidents have regularly bunked.

Is California next?

There the savviest of investors tried to secure their place early in what they believe will be a green gold rush. California voters will likely have the chance to legalize recreational cannabis for adults on the 2016 ballot, and early polls show strong support.

The marijuana market has boomed 74 percent over the past year to $2.7 billion, with California — where only medicinal pot is legal — accounting for nearly half that, according to a report this week by ArcView. If pot were legalized in California next year, ArcView projects that “the entire industry could rapidly double in size.”

Whiff of success

Inside the Fairmont, it wasn’t hard to smell the opportunity. Kevin McCarty, the fourth employee at the social network Yammer, was seeking funding for Eaze, an on-demand weed delivery service dubbed “the Uber for pot.”

Prowling the halls was Tom Bollich, a co-founder of the video game titan Zynga whose new startup, Surna, sells chilling systems used to grow marijuana.

Monday’s keynote speaker was Justin Kan, the San Francisco entrepreneur who recently sold his streaming video game service, Twitch, to Amazon for $970 million. Now he wants to get into the cannabis business, as he sees “a lot of parallels to the technology industry” — like how you can get a lot of grief for being far ahead of the curve.

Before Twitch took off, critics said watching other people play video games was “a crazy idea,” Kan told the crowd. “So I guess I’m a real believer in crazy ideas.”

Compared with your average tech startup, the cannabis business has one huge advantage: There’s no lack of demand. “People are breaking the law to buy your product,” Kan said.

Marijuana’s questionable legal status has led to hesitance from traditional Silicon Valley investors. Even though venture capitalists are famous for taking risks, there is a reluctance to invest in marijuana, which the federal government classifies as a Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin. Many venture capital firms have outright prohibitions against investing in “sin” products like pornography, alcohol, tobacco, firearms and illegal drugs.

And legal uncertainty remains: Medical marijuana is available in only 23 states and Washington, D.C., and recreational marijuana is legal in only two states, Washington and Colorado.

When he was hunting for investors for his distilled cannabis company, Ebbu, former video game industry executive Dooma Wendschuh said a potential longtime tech investor “was so worried about the optics of it that he wanted to form a separate LLC before he would do anything.”

Wendschuh, who co-founded Sekretagent Productions, makers of the popular “Assassin’s Creed” series, feels no such reticence. When he was considering selling his share in the game company, Wendschuh told conference-goers, “It was not an easy choice. But the thing that pushed me over the edge was the realization that nearly every truly visceral moment in my adult life, everything that I am most proud of ... all involved some form of psychoactives.”

Joint ventures

Slowly, the big tech investors are following him into the deep end. This month, the Founders Fund, an investment firm started by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, joined a $75 million round of funding in Privateer Holdings, which has several marijuana company investments.

Some tech expats say you don’t even have to break the law to cash in on the boom.

Jessica Billingsley and Amy Poinsett turned their Web developing and IT expertise into MJ Highway, which sells software to marijuana businesses. Five years after they started, they have 25 employees and more than 1,000 clients in 18 states.

“Our geek skills were very much in demand here,” Billingsley said.

As big money moves into what for decades was underground economy, ArcView Group President Steve DeAngelo urged the investors and entrepreneurs to heed what he considers the longstanding values of the pot world: inclusion, diversity and a respect for nature.

“Cannabis is a gift from the hippies, like yoga and personal computers,” he said.

When people look back at the early days of the marijuana business, they should be able to say that “we didn’t just create a new industry, but we created a new kind of industry,” DeAngelo said.


Jul 25, 2008
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Study finds Australians suffering chronic pain get more relief from cannabis than conventional medicines

Australians suffering from chronic pain may get more relief from their symptoms using cannabis than they do from some conventional medications, researchers have found.

A large study of people suffering from chronic problems such as back pain, migraine and arthritis has discovered many are turning to cannabis to relieve their symptoms, despite already being prescribed heavy-duty opioid medications such as morphine and oxycodone.

In a finding that is likely to further intensify the debate about medical marijuana use, the National Drug and Alcohol Centre researchers found people who used the illegal drug said it was more helpful than the highly addictive and potentially dangerous opioid medications.

Millions of Australians suffer from chronic pain - a problem set to increase as the population ages. Yet there are few effective and safe long-term treatments, and accidental overdose deaths from prescribed pain drugs are now more common than deaths from heroin.

Study leader Louisa Degenhardt found nearly 13 per cent of 1500 chronic pain patients, who were mainly aged in their late 40s and early 50s, had used cannabis in the past year despite being prescribed opioids. This compared to only 4.7 per cent of the rest of the population, she wrote in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"One in three said they found it very effective to relieve their pain, that's a score of ten out of ten," she said. "Now these are all subjective scores … but it means there is definitely a group of people who think that taking it was very beneficial."

Professor Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and the University of Melbourne, said the study raised important questions about whether the benefits of cannabis for pain should be more seriously explored, but also about the negative effects of drugs, such as patient dependence.

"The people who were also trying cannabis for pain, they were younger but they had also been living with pain for longer," she said. "Their pain was so severe it had been interfering with their lives."

Study co-author Nicholas Lintzeris, a medical doctor specialising in addiction and an associate professor of addiction medicine at the University of Sydney, said there had been a huge rise in the number of Australians seeking treatment for addiction to pain medications.

This was linked to a lack of multi-disciplinary treatment such as physiotherapy and massage, leaving doctors with little choice but to prescribe heavy-duty painkillers, or even other drugs for which there was little evidence of efficacy, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.

"Interestingly, in the United States (as there has been more use of medicinal cannabis there), we are starting to see some large epidemiological studies that indicate cannabis use might ... provide other options other than simply an ever-escalating opioid dose [when treatment isn't working]," he said. "It could well be that if there were safer cannabinoid drugs that might be a useful strategy". However, he said there was little known about the cannabis plant, which contains many different chemicals.

The Baird state government has committed to beginning three trials of medical cannabis, for children with the most severe form of drug resistant epilepsy, and people with terminal illnesses and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

The Labor party has called for the process to be expedited given the existing evidence for it, while a Greens bill to legalise medical cannabis has called for wider use.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the NDARC paper provided more evidence that both the Liberal and Labor parties were being too cautious.

"It is irrational and cruel to criminalise patients who are obtaining relief from chronic non-cancer pain using medicinal cannabis," he said.

"Waiting for yet more evidence before changing the law is a delaying tactic that will see tens of thousands of people suffer debilitating levels of pain needlessly."

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