Mj news for 04/14/2015


Jul 25, 2008
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On-Demand Marijuana Delivery Startup Eaze Raises $10 Million As Investors Grow Less Skittish

A $10 million Series A funding round is a milestone many startups never hit — but for a weed startup, it’s almost unheard of.

Eaze is a service that connects medical marijuana patients with dispensaries, and its funding round, announced Tuesday, is one of the biggest raised by a startup in the cannabis industry, an area that many investors have been slow to embrace. It’s welcome news for Eaze, for all of its competitors and for anyone interested in building technology products around weed.

“It signals that technology services can be successful service the cannabis category,” said Eaze CEO and founder Keith McCarty. “It also signals that regulatory landscapes are loosening up, and venture capitalists see the broader market continuing in that direction.”

The timing of the app’s launch — last July — was perfect, McCarty says. It was the first Uber-for-weed startup to market and has been followed by at least seven others, only some of which have even launched. Most of them offer a similar service: verify medical marijuana patients and let them order on-demand buds from local dispensaries, which have their own fleets of delivery drivers.

Investment in marijuana-related startups has usually been limited to angel investors and other high-wealth individuals, and many startups find it challenging to raise money from bigger investors. Traditional venture firms are often restricted by their limited partners on investing in legally hazy areas like marijuana. They’re only just starting to warm up to the idea — and startups like Eaze are there, waiting.

“I wish I was more strategic — I think I just got lucky,” he said. “In terms of timing, if I had a crystal ball last year I’m not sure I could have done it any better.”

A few recent changes might have assuaged some investors’ fears. Washington and Colorado started full legalization. PayPal cofounder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel planted his flag in a pro-weed investment camp when his Founder’s Fund invested in a $75 million round for Privateer Holdings, a holding company for marijuana-related businesses.

“The six months’ difference between when we raised seed to now — the investor sentiment has changed a lot,” said Eaze spokeswoman Caroline Vespi. “A lot of it has to do with the Peter Thiel announcement. It’s okay to talk about funding a weed startup, whereas six months ago it was a little dicey.” (Startups still run into hiccups because of their spotty legality: Eaze’s app, just like those of its competitors, is not allowed in Google GOOGL -1.4% or Apple’s app stores, so it exists as a web app.)

DCM Ventures led the round, and other investors include Fresh VC, 500 Startups and rapper Snoop Dogg’s new weed fund Casa Verde Capital, according to Quartz. DCM’s David Chao said he thinks the firm stands to gain from its willingness to take risks with companies like Eaze.

“Historically, DCM Ventures has been very open-minded,” Chao said. “We were one of the very first to go to mainland China when people thought it was a little risky. We’ve done deals like BitTorrent. We have a history of realizing, you know what? The world’s going to change.”


Jul 25, 2008
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Medical Marijuana: the Myths and Realities

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has been used for more than 3,000 years for the treatment and management of pain, digestive issues and psychological disorders. Despite the fact that marijuana is thought to be useful for treating several medical conditions and symptoms, there is great debate about its safety and efficacy. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for any medical condition, yet a growing number of states are legalizing its use for the treatment and management of certain medical conditions.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and recreational use of the drug in small quantities is legal in Washington and Colorado. All the states that have legalized medical marijuana require a doctor’s approval, and all states but Washington require either an ID card that needs to be shown at a dispensary or enrollment in a patient registry. Many of the states that allow medical marijuana use have an online application process and require a patient fee. In addition to receiving an ID card, patients in most states are required to obtain a signed document from their physician indicating the condition being treated and that medical marijuana is the recommended treatment. Laws regarding the use of medical marijuana for treating specific conditions vary by state, and there are restrictions regarding the amount of marijuana that can be dispensed at each visit.

For What Conditions Is Medical Marijuana Used?

The most common reasons for medical marijuana use are relieving pain, controlling chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting and stimulating appetite in patients with cancer and/or HIV/AIDS. Additionally, a 2014 study by the American Academy of Neurology reported that medical marijuana may be beneficial in easing some of the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.

Glaucoma has been treated using medical marijuana since the 1970s, and studies show that medical marijuana decreases intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. Additional research by the National Eye Institute concluded that although IOP is lowered following medical marijuana use, the pressure decrease is short-lived (typically three to four hours). This short period of relief is a major drawback, and many health care professionals prefer the traditional therapeutic approaches of prescription medication and surgical procedures because they have proved to be effective for treating glaucoma. In June 2014, the American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that it does not recommend marijuana or other cannabis products for the treatment of glaucoma.

Results from a clinical study published in the journal Neurology reported that medical marijuana may benefit individuals with chronic pain, nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy; lower IOP in those with glaucoma; and reduce spasm-related pain and painful burning and numbness associated with multiple sclerosis. Results from some studies also have shown that medical marijuana may be beneficial in treating neuropathic pain.

Scientists are exploring whether the active ingredients in marijuana may be beneficial and are investigating its use for treating neurologic conditions such as seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, but more research is needed.

How Is Medical Marijuana Administered?

If your doctor thinks you're a candidate for the use of medical marijuana, he or she will determine the appropriate dosage and frequency. Medical marijuana is available in many forms and can be smoked, vaporized, taken orally in pill or liquid extract form, brewed into a tea or added to certain foods.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research is focusing on the two main chemicals in marijuana: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. These chemicals are found in different ratios in the marijuana plant. THC is thought to stimulate appetite and decrease nausea, but it may also reduce pain and inflammation. As a result of research on the active chemicals in marijuana, the FDA has approved two medications that are synthetic forms of THC, including Marinol and Cesamet, for treating nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond to traditional antiemetic treatments. Marinol is also indicated for the treatment of significant weight loss in patients with HIV/AIDS. Both of these agents are available by prescription only in capsule form.

Research has shown that CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid that may be beneficial in decreasing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures and possibly even treating psychoses and addictions. Moreover, an investigational drug that contains cannabidiol (Epidiolex; not yet approved by the FDA) is being studied for treatment of the childhood epilepsy conditions Dravet’s syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Another drug, Sativex, a combination of THC and CBD that is administered by oral spray, is being investigated in clinical trials for treating pain in patients with advanced cancer and for treating spasticity in those with multiple sclerosis.

Are There Adverse Effects to Using Medical Marijuana?

The effect of marijuana on an individual’s ability to function is not the drug’s only side effect. Although the long-term effects of marijuana are not fully understood, results of some studies show that long-term use may be associated with cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Study results show that marijuana contains hundreds of compounds that may damage the lungs – an estimated 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than are in tobacco products – and the American Lung Association reports that marijuana smoke releases 33 cancer-causing chemicals.

Research has also shown that regular and frequent use of marijuana, particularly in high doses, can cause problems with short-term memory and concentration. According to the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, possible adverse effects of marijuana may include dizziness, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, problems with short-term memory, decreased attention span, hallucinations, depression, issues with problem-solving skills, impairment of motor and cognitive skills, and insomnia. Some individuals may also experience dry mouth, red eyes, anxiety, low blood glucose levels and drowsiness.


Debate continues regarding the use of marijuana for treating and managing certain medical conditions, and more research is clearly needed. Individuals interested in the medical use of marijuana should discuss this issue with their primary health care provider, understand the potential for adverse effects and and weigh the risks versus the benefits. Just as with any other medication, you need to be informed about its proper use, side effects and potential interactions with other medications. The most important thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your primary health care provider to learn the facts about the use of medical marijuana in your state and the available treatment options.

For more information on state medical marijuana laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website or call your state’s Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about the laws regarding medical marijuana where you live.

Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 17, 2015 on PharmacyTimes.com. It has been edited and republished by U.S. News. The original version, with references, can be seen here.


Jul 25, 2008
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The marijuana industry’s newest customers are sick and elderly dogs

A day before a scheduled vet appointment to euthanize her dog, Wendy Mansfield decided to try one last resort to alleviate the chronic pain of her 15-year-old labrador mix: cookies from a marijuana dispensary made specifically for ailing dogs.

Kali, a mild-mannered 80-pound rescue, was never much of a complainer. But she often licked her paws—an obvious sign of pain, according to her vet—which was typically accompanied by bouts of coughing because of the shedding fur that got in her throat. One cookie and 20 minutes later, the licking suddenly stopped.

Seeing this, Mansfield, who lives in Fort Bragg, California, gave her dog a second cookie, and then a third. Kali, who had been listless and depressed, got up to drink some water and walked outside—something she hadn’t been able to do recently without groaning or obvious signs of pain.

Mansfield then called the vet to cancel her appointment. That was three weeks ago. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated this,” she tells Quartz. “It brought my dog back.”

With marijuana flourishing into a big business in the US, a new segment of the market catering to aging and ailing pets has been growing under the radar. The legal weed market raked in $2.7 billion in revenue in 2014, and one estimate by the ArcView Group, a network that connects investors with cannabis startups, projects the industry to top $10 billion in sales by 2018.

The pet-pot market is treading on new territory, however. The legal gray area is posing challenges for companies that want to market and distribute cannabis-derived products for animals. There’s also insufficient scientific backing and industry guidelines. Still, that’s not deterring desperate pet owners, like Mansfield, or keeping investors from getting on board.

The FDA is watching

The special cookies given to Kali were produced by Auntie Dolores, an Oakland-based maker of edible marijuana goods, including caramel corn, cheese crackers, and savory pretzels (a bestseller). The seven-year-old company launched its pet treat line, Treatibles, about a year ago.

Unlike its edibles for humans, Treatibles products, which are sold in dispensaries, aren’t made from marijuana but from hemp—the stem of the cannabis plant that’s low in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces that feeling of getting high. Hemp, however, does contain cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound that alleviates pain. The US government also defines hemp as cannabis—not necessarily the stem—that measures less than 0.3% in THC, a threshold that allows its movement across state lines.

Most companies making cannabis-derived pet products choose to use hemp because the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. But as it stands, veterinarians aren’t
empowered to prescribe cannabis to pets. That could change soon. Nevada is currently debating a bill that would allow people to obtain medical marijuana for their pets with a vet’s approval.

Though Auntie Dolores CEO Julianna Carella has heard from customers like Mansfield, she’s hesitant to promote the product’s effects, or even market Treatibles at all. “Honestly, we’re hands off with that because we’re not doctors and it’s not our place to prescribe it in that way,” she says. The company’s also wary of attracting the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration, which recently began sending out warning letters to some companies selling cannabis-based products for animals.

One such recipient is Canna Companion, which in February got an ominous letter delivered to its headquarters outside Seattle saying that its product is an “unapproved new animal drug and your marketing of it violates the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.”

Sarah Brandon, an owner of Canna Companion, had no idea such rules existed. She and her husband have researched the effects of cannabis on pets for the past decade, stemming back to their days in veterinary school. In 2014, they took out a $20,000 loan to build a business selling ground hemp powder that dogs and cats consume orally.

They also used language on Canna Companion’s website and social media accounts that made the product sound like a drug, rather than a supplement, which the FDA noticed. This included phrases as innocuous as “safe and effective” and bolder claims like “reduce cancer-associated symptoms.”

“Being vets, we are required by law to use medical terminology,” Brandon says, explaining the original phrasing. “We don’t say an animal has tummy pains. We say they have gastritis and we use those terms.” But she understood the FDA’s point of view, and the company updated the language on its site and social media accounts.

Canna-Pet, a Seattle company that sells capsules and biscuits for dogs made with hemp, received a similar letter from the agency. “It’s not an unusual thing for the supplement industry where the marketer is making claims that might be going too far,” admits Soren Mogelsvang, CEO of Peak Pharmaceuticals, which has an exclusive licensing agreement to sell Canna-Pet products. “We’re all a little guilty of that and were reprimanded by the FDA. We responded to the guidelines and adjusted our marketing materials accordingly.”

That said, the letter didn’t negatively impact sales. “If anything, it might have bumped it up a little,” he says. “Any PR is good PR.”

The role of THC

Some companies play it safe by using hemp, but Alison Ettel, CEO of San Francisco-based TreatWell (previously known as SweetLeaf), takes issue with the ingredient. She says companies that make cannabis-derived products for pets often source industrial-grade hemp, which is bred for fiber instead of medicinal properties.

Ettel only started using marijuana after she fell into a coma in 2011 due to complications from meningitis. In 2014, she created TreatWell with a grower in Humboldt County in California. About six months ago, Ettel, a former dog walker and animal shelter volunteer, began custom-making tinctures after desperate pet owners reached out directly to her. She also gave the concoctions to her own cat, who suffered from cancer and lived to be 15 years old before she was put down in January.

Industrial- and food-grade hemp is typically low in extractable cannabinoids. Multiple vets interviewed for this story say cannabis is most effective as a medicine when its full spectrum of cannabinoids (at least 85 have been identified) are deployed, even if they’re not as well studied as THC or CBD. Furthermore, Ettel says most industrial hemp is imported from overseas, where farming practices, such as the use of pesticides, might be more lax compared with the US. Though the marijuana industry can’t lay claim to the organic label, which is federally regulated, TreatWell prides itself on using marijuana grown following organic standards, she says.

Currently, there are no guidelines for marijuana’s use in dogs. But TreatWell believes THC shouldn’t be discounted, even if it draws scrutiny from the government. “What I’ll say is we target certain ratios for certain illnesses,” Ettel says. “I can’t make any claims it’ll cure anything.” Though results vary by individual animals, the company suggests a THC-to-CBD ratio of 1:1 for pain relief and appetite stimulation. A THC-to-CBD ratio of 3:1 is recommended for conditions associated with extreme arthritis, for example.

Because it’s operating in a legal gray area, TreatWell has avoided marketing its pet products and has taken extra precautions with distribution, selling directly to patients in California with medical marijuana cards that have joined its collective. The company also requires vet records from its members to prove their pets’ conditions are legitimate.

“There’s always going to be risk involved,” she says. “To be honest, helping these pets and these people is much more important to me.”

Undeterred investors

Despite the risks, investor interest hasn’t subsided. TreatWell hasn’t taken any outside funding to date, but it’s currently in the process of raising money from investors so it can produce tinctures for pets with standardized dosing and sell them in dispensaries. “[Investors] already swallowed that pill,” says Ettel. “They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t comfortable with cannabis.”

That’s the case with Doug Leighton at Dutchess Capital, a marijuana-focused investment firm in Boston. “I’m already in this space anyway,” he says. He’s also not concerned about the challenges of selling the product because “the dog is not going to go to jail,” he adds.

One of the firm’s investments is in Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, which Leighton says is developing a line for pets. The company, which makes cannabis-infused drinks, treats, and lotions, declined to be interviewed for this story. A representative said it was too early to talk about its plans for the pet market.

Because the cannabis market for pets is so new, others are treading lightly. “The potential issues around politics and legislation are always a concern in the cannabis space,” says Emily Paxhia, a partner at Poseidon Asset Management, an investment firm in the marijuana industry. Still, she can’t deny the “massive market potential” since it sits at the intersection of two billion-dollar industries: pot and pets. In total, investors, including Poseidon, have injected $800,000 into Auntie Dolores so far.

Paxhia saw how Treatibles helped her own dog, Sprout, a three-legged terrier mix. She says the treats have helped reduce Sprout’s inflammation, caused by the additional stress put on her front leg, and calmed her anxiety.

Treatibles is still only a small fraction of Auntie Dolores’s business, having sold about 1,100 units thus far. To provide some context, Carella, who declined to disclose revenue figures, says the company “sold almost a quarter of a million units last year with all our products combined.” The edible goods maker is looking to raise an additional $1.25 million to scale its operations, and it’s in the process of spinning off Treatibles as its own entity, so investors can choose to put their money into either or both businesses.

Scientific backing

Veterinarians are only staring to learn about marijuana’s effects on animals. In March, the California Veterinary Medical Association held a conference in Yosemite National Park where one of the major themes was cannabis.

Dawn Boothe, who teaches at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama, presented on the topic, but admits there’s much that’s unknown. “If you want to back up and have a discussion about the scientific evidence on the use of medical marijuana in dogs, we’re done because there isn’t any,” she says. Prior studies have found, however, that cannabinoid receptors are present in mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish.

Her department recently submitted a grant application to the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds scientific studies for animals, to conduct research on cannabinoids’ effects on dogs.

Peak Pharmaceuticals, which has a lab at the University of Colorado in Denver, is also doing its own research. It’s partnered with a vet hospital to conduct clinical studies on the effects of cannabinoids on dogs with epilepsy. The company has also struck an agreement with a university to study the effects of cannabinoids on horses that suffer from joint pain and anxiety.

“If you think about it, universities are still in limbo,” says Mogelsvang, who contractually couldn’t name the company’s research partners yet. “They don’t know if they can research cannabinoids and are worried about losing grant funding. The hemp laws, the farm bills—there’s very little case law that defines what’s right and what’s wrong.

Though Boothe knows the evidence is lacking, she points to past marijuana studies done on lab animals and existing human drugs on the market that contain cannabinoids. One such example is Sativex, a mouth spray prescribed in Europe that controls symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. It lists THC and CBD as active ingredients. “We can’t ignore the therapeutic benefits,” she says.

That said, she’s extremely wary of hemp-based pet products on the market, especially since there’s so little oversight for supplements.

Many players in the marijuana industry are hoping new research will shed light on cannabis’s effectiveness in pets and help the industry set guidelines on quality and dosage. (The companies interviewed for this story offer suggestions based on the animal’s weight, recommending pet owners start with a lower dose and gradually increase the amount as needed.)

Playing Doctor

What Boothe is most concerned about is pet owners making health decisions without the guidance of a vet. “I’d like to think that people would think it’s a bad idea to treat children without a physician’s advice,” she says. “I think it’s the same with animals.”

Even Brandon of Canna Companion agrees. “As a business owner, pet parent, and veterinarian, I absolutely understand that desperation people feel,” she says. “They feel this beloved member of their family is suffering and they don’t know how to help them.”

But she strongly urges pet owners to consult their vets before taking their animals off prescribed drugs. Suddenly stopping some anti-convulsive medications could make their dogs seriously ill, she says, as an example.

Wendy Mansfield never consulted a professional before giving Kali those cookies. Her vet, however, was open-minded about the alternative treatment and asked Mansfield to periodically check in.

Mansfield also reduced the number of drugs Kali takes now. Instead of taking four pills, two of them narcotics, Kali now gets three to four cookies every few hours and a pain blocker to help her sleep at night. “[Vets] are in a strange position, and this is all new,” she says. “The best way to gauge your dog is to watch them. With my involvement with my dog, my vet feels comfortable with my decision.”

Mansfield, who suffers from Bell’s Palsy, chose the same alternative for herself four years ago as she recovered from the effects of meningitis, encephalitis, and a medically-induced coma. Her doctor had prescribed her oxycodone, a narcotic pain killer, but Mansfield was adamant against it, choosing instead to self medicate with marijuana. “I never took one of those pills—never, never, never.”

She can’t help but see the parallel between her and Kali’s lives. “I’m a walking miracle, too,” she says.


Jul 25, 2008
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Children involved in marijuana-related calls to Oregon Poison Center

Eleven preschool-aged children were treated at Oregon healthcare facilities for marijuana ingestion in 2014, according to Oregon Poison Center data.

The previous year, seven children younger than 5 were treated at a healthcare facility after ingesting cannabis. In 2012, the number was 10.

The Oregon Poison Center, a statewide agency, does not track the types of marijuana ingested - whether the child ate a marijuana-infused edible or some other form of the drug -- or the circumstances around the incident.

"These are small numbers," said Dr. Zane Horowitz, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center as well as a medical toxicologist and an emergency room physician. "There are about 10 young children under the age of 5 per year, most likely inadvertently getting into marijuana that's left unattended and unsecured."

The issue of children accidentally ingesting marijuana is a top concern for public health officials in states like Colorado where the drug is legal. Of particular concern: marijuana-infused edibles such as candies and other treats that resemble conventional candies and sweets.

In a recent memo to Oregon lawmakers, Oregon Liquor Control Commission staff said they, too, have heard in surveys and public forums that the public is worried about marijuana products' appeal to children.

"Building rules that clearly protect children will be complicated," OLCC staff wrote.

The memo goes onto say that Colorado and Washington are "possible models" for Oregon "but OLCC wishes to work with experts in children behavior to assure that products sold in OLCC licensed retail establishes cannot be confused with non marijuana products."

Poison center calls involving a young child who has ingested marijuana are typically referred to a hospital for observation, said Horowitz.

"They usually get observed for a few hours until they are more coherent and stable," he said.

He said cannabis consumption can be a "very scary experience" for a young child.

"They will have an unpleasant experience, which no parent would wish on their children," he said. A toddler, for instance, may suddenly be unable to walk for a while, he said.

At Children's Hospital Colorado, 14 children under 10 were treated for marijuana ingestion in 2014, the first year of regulated recreational marijuana sales. Though small, the number is an increase from previous years, hospital data shows.

Like Oregon, the data isn't broken down by the type of product consumed or how the child obtained it.

In cases involving younger children, marijuana ingestion is typically accidental, said Dr. Sam Wang, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and a medical toxicologist at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Wang said children who consume marijuana can become sleepy or start acting "goofy." In two severe cases, the hospital treated minors who had difficulty breathing as a result of ingesting marijuana.

"They have needed a breathing tube," he said.

He said Colorado's requirement that marijuana be packaged in child-resistant containers is important and mirrors requirements for other harmful products, such as household chemicals.

"They make sense," he said. "Whether or not they actually prevent kids from getting into marijuana products, we don't have that data."

With changes to Oregon's marijuana laws set to take effect in July, Horowitz said the general public needs to be reminded about keeping cannabis away from young kids. Possession and home cultivation of marijuana become legal July 1.

The state will launch a regulated marijuana industry sometime next year. "We are about to experience a new wave of marijuana products that will be generally available to adults," he said. "We need to be careful."


Jul 25, 2008
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State Democrat wants to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin; Walker opposes legislation

MADISON – Another push has begun to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana in Wisconsin. But if legislators toe the party line, the bill sponsored by a Democrat likely won’t get anywhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced the legislation at a press conference Monday morning. She said legalizing marijuana would reduce crime and create jobs, but Republican leaders were quick to dismiss the legislation.

Sargent believes legalizing marijuana will solve issues – not create more.

Click here to read the 2015 bill

“Some politicians have demonized the use of marijuana,” said Sargent. “But what is truly criminal is the money that Wisconsin is losing by not legalizing marijuana.”

Sargent introduced similar legislation last year. That bill never made any progress in Madison.

State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, expects the same result again.

“Certainly whatever imagined revenue there might be, I think there would be certainly higher costs to society,” said Jacque.

The bill would allow a person to get a permit to sell marijuana for recreational use. Sellers would pay a 25 percent tax on the sales price.

The legislation would also allow people to register and use marijuana for medicinal reasons. The measure would not allow the sale of edible marijuana or marijuana usage in public, and it would still be illegal to drive with a detectable amount of marijuana in your system.

“This is a values issue,” said Sargent. “This is something that is the best for the people of our state.”

Jacque has another view about the potential impact, saying it would likely increase marijuana use among younger people and result in more people using marijuana before driving.

“Clearly the values that I consider are keeping our communities safe, looking out for our children, looking out for people in general,” he said.

Twenty-three states allow some form of medical marijuana use. Four states – Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska – plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use.

Click here to read more about other states’ marijuana laws

Wisconsin likely won’t join them. An email from Governor Walker’s press secretary says the governor opposes the legislation.

“(Marijuana) is a gateway drug and Governor Walker has also heard from law enforcement professionals who have significant concerns about the impact of legalizing this drug,” said Laurel Patrick.

Marijuana use is illegal under federal law, but the federal government has said it won’t challenge state laws that make it legal as long as those states strictly enforce their new regulations

Wisconsin allows an oil derived from marijuana to be used to treat certain medical disorders. That policy was passed and signed into law by the governor last spring.


Jul 25, 2008
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Renewed effort to place PTSD on Colorado’s medical pot list

Colorado may add post-traumatic stress disorder as a condition to be treated with medical marijuana — a dramatic turnaround after years of rejecting appeals to make PTSD the first ailment added to the state’s medical-pot program since it was approved by voters in 2000.

The addition of PTSD would be the first mental-health disorder for which Colorado doctors could recommend pot.

Colorado’s chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, will forward the addition to the full Board of Health for approval this fall.

The addition would be a dramatic turnaround for an agency that has rejected PTSD at least three times for inclusion on the marijuana registry. Wolk, who as recently as last year testified against making PTSD an ailment eligible for pot, said his mind was changed by overwhelming evidence that people with PTSD are already on the medical registry, just listing “severe pain” as their ailment.

“We don’t want people to suffer as a result as a result of not being able to access (the registry) honestly,” Wolk said.

The change comes after Colorado assembled a panel of doctors and medical marijuana advocates to review studies about the drug’s medical potential. The new Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council made the recommendation Friday, saying that PTSD can be added for a four-year trial.

“It’s momentous,” said Brian Vicente, a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization who led efforts for years to add PTSD to Colorado’s medical marijuana registry. “It’s contributing to the legitimization of marijuana.”

If the Board of Health approves the change, Colorado would become the 10th state to consider PTSD a condition eligible for pot.

Colorado last year awarded about $3.4 million to two medical studies of using the drug for treatment of PTSD. Those studies are just getting underway.

Colorado currently has about 114,000 people on the medical marijuana registry. They all have a doctor’s recommendation for using the drug to treat one of eight debilitating conditions, ranging from cancer and AIDS to severe pain and nausea.

Wolk predicted that adding PTSD to the list of qualifying ailments won’t increase the numbers of people eligible for medical pot. He did predict a shift in listings on the marijuana registry from “severe pain” to PTSD.

“It really better represents how and why patients are using medical marijuana,” he said. “Colorado is known for the state where 96 percent of the people get their medical marijuana for pain, and we don’t think that’s a true reflection of the population.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the registry, will request a hearing about the PTSD addition in June, with a public hearing on the question expected in September.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Maine) DHHS defends using former police to inspect marijuana caregiver operations

A Maine Department of Health and Human Services official defended the agency’s decision to hire former law enforcement officers to investigate medical marijuana caregivers, saying the department is obligated to follow up on complaints made by the public but lacked the manpower to do so.

The move by DHHS comes as several lawmakers are aiming to address an even bigger gray area in the state’s medical marijuana program: whether the agency has the authority to conduct periodic inspections of the more than 1,700 caregivers legally growing pot for patients.

“There have been questions about whether (inspectors) can legally visit them or not, and this would take care of that,” said Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, sponsor of one of two bills to give the agency clear authority to inspect medical marijuana growers even when there are no complaints.


Last week, some advocates for Maine’s medical marijuana industry reacted with alarm to news that DHHS had signed a one-year, $167,000 contract on March 1 with the Maine Sheriffs’ Association to investigate complaints against caregivers. The advocates suggested the department overstepped its authority by implementing an inspection program without going through the public rulemaking process.

DHHS spokesman David Sorensen said Monday that the department regularly hires contractors to perform all types of services and that the medical marijuana “program compliance specialists” were no different. He also rejected the charge that DHHS did not have authority to carry out the inspections, which are voluntary.

“This is well within the authority of the department and it is certainly in the vested interest of the Maine Medical Marijuana Program,” Sorensen said. “The department can do complaint follow-ups, and that is exactly what we are doing. The department has an obligation not only to the medical marijuana caregivers and dispensaries and patients, but also to the people of Maine.”

Sorensen could not provide specifics about the number or types of complaints DHHS has received.

Maine voters first legalized the limited use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1999 and significantly expanded the law a decade later. The 2009 ballot initiative ordered the state to set up a regulated system of marijuana dispensaries and caregivers to supply patients with the drug. Caregivers are allowed to provide marijuana to five patients at a time, cultivating up to six mature plants for each of them. They can also possess up to 2.5 ounces of prepared marijuana per patient as well as up to 8 pounds of “harvested, dried unprepared marijuana in varying states of processing.”


The four “program compliance specialists” hired through the Maine Sheriffs’ Association are only empowered to respond to complaints received by DHHS and do not have the power to arrest or file criminal complaints against any violators, DHHS said. Instead, they are working as civilian inspectors who will forward their findings to DHHS. Also, the caregivers are not obligated to open their doors to the inspectors, and it remains unclear what recourse DHHS has if the inspector is refused entry.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, acknowledged that inspectors will look at the entire operation and not restrict the inspection to the original complaint. The sheriff’s group responded to a DHHS “request for proposals” to assist with the complaint investigations. He said the inspectors, all of whom are former law enforcement officers, have conducted about 10 visits so far and that all of those were “very straightforward” and non-adversarial.

“This is a bit of an evolving process as more and more caregivers come on line,” Merry said. “What I have heard … in general is there doesn’t seem to be a lot of regulation around this.”

Each inspector will carry a photo ID issued by DHHS and the Maine Sheriffs’ Association identifying them as a “program compliance specialist” who is authorized to “enforce” compliance with Maine’s medical marijuana laws, according to a copy of an ID provided to the Portland Press Herald.


Even with the four compliance specialists, there are questions about whether Maine’s law has the regulatory teeth needed to keep up with the growing number of caregivers cultivating marijuana for patients.

The section of law detailing how inspections of caregiver operations would be handled – dubbed “onsite assessments” – is empty because earlier language was repealed. Under the “compliance section,” the law states that DHHS “may take action necessary to ensure compliance with this chapter, including, but not limited to, collecting, possessing, transporting and performing laboratory testing on soil and marijuana plant samples, and samples of products containing marijuana from registered primary caregivers and registered dispensaries to determine compliance with this chapter and for evidence purposes.”

Two bills pending in the Legislature aim to clarify the department’s authority.

The first, L.D. 726 sponsored by Saviello, would allow the department “to enter the cultivation facility at any time, without notice, to carry out an inspection” and would direct the department to develop rules addressing such issues as minimum record-keeping requirements for how caregivers dispose of excess marijuana.

L.D. 1258, the second, broader bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, also would allow inspectors to visit caregivers who are cultivating plants for three or more patients, but would require DHHS to notify the caregivers at least 24 hours in advance.

The bills will be reviewed by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, on which Sanderson serves. Public hearings have not yet been scheduled for the bills.


Jul 25, 2008
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Groundbreaking Research Suggests Medical Marijuana Could Reduce Seizures In Children

Six-year-old Izaiah Ruiz loves football, playing outside and riding on his great-grandfather's tractor. He smiles and laughs all the time, and recently received the citizenship medal at his school for always jumping at the chance to help his classmates when they're in trouble.

"He is the sweetest, most loving boy," said his grandmother, Lori Fountain, who lives with Ruiz in Conroe, Texas. "If he sees a little boy or girl fall down, he will always ask them if they're OK, with such sweet sincerity."

Ruiz has suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a debilitating disorder that can cause him to have more than 100 seizures a day, since he was 2 months old. He rides in a specially equipped stroller with an oxygen tank strapped to the back. He wears a brace on his right leg because the persistent convulsions have weakened that side of his body, and he wears a cooling vest when he plays outside so his body won't overheat. Fountain, his legal guardian, sleeps beside him every night in case he has a seizure in his sleep.

"I don't ever leave him alone," said Fountain, who volunteers at Ruiz's school so she can be near him during the day. "They can happen at any time. He's had seizures in the bathtub, sitting on the potty. ... I have woken up to him having a seizure in the bed in the middle of the night. Sometimes we spend up to three weeks in the hospital just getting him well."

Ruiz takes three different seizure medications a day, but they have done little to address the problem, and produce a variety of side effects, from weight gain to near-constant drowsiness. Then last year, the family was offered a glimmer of hope. Ruiz's neurologist at Texas Children's Hospital told Fountain about a first-of-its kind drug being developed from marijuana plants specifically to treat early childhood epilepsy.

The drug, Epidiolex, is derived from cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant that doesn't produce the "high" feeling commonly associated with pot. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a series of clinical trials to test Epidiolex's efficacy at treatment centers around the world, including 10 in the United States.

CBD strains of marijuana, usually administered in an oil form, have been gaining popularity over the past several years as an alternative treatment for families of children with intractable forms of epilepsy, especially as a growing number of high-profile success stories have been chronicled in the media. But cannabis remains federally illegal, and Epidiolex is the first FDA-sanctioned drug to undergo scientific trials for this purpose.

On Monday, the American Academy of Neurology released preliminary data from the drug's open label testing stage, a precursor to the controlled double-blind scientific trials currently underway. The research revealed that more than 50 percent of the 137 epileptic children and young adults continually treated with Epidiolex over a period of three months saw a reduction in their seizures.

Dr. Angus Wilfong, a pediatric neurologist leading the Epidiolex research at Texas Children's Hospital, told HuffPost that while the open label results can't be viewed as scientific proof that CBD-derived drugs can effectively treat epilepsy because the study didn't include the use of a placebo on a control group, the findings are certainly "encouraging."

"What's exciting is that it's more evidence that this kind of medicine can be used to treat these conditions," Wilfong said. "But it's not proof -- that's what the scientific studies happening right now are looking at."

Over the course of the next several months, researchers will continue testing Epidiolex on a group of young epileptic patients around the world. Meanwhile, another group will receive a placebo, and neither the patients nor their doctors will know whether they are receiving Epidiolex or the placebo. Wilfong says he expects the results of the trials to be published around the same time next year.

Ruiz was chosen to participate in the first stage of the double-blind trial late last year, and Fountain said she still doesn't know if he received Epidiolex or a placebo. But what she does know is that his seizures decreased during the three months of the study.

"For the month of December, which is usually our bad month, we were not in the hospital once," she said, adding that Ruiz helped to decorate the Christmas tree for the first time in his life. "We don't know what he had; he could have had the placebo and just had a really great December. But he only had one really bad seizure for the whole month."

Wilfong explained that once the FDA, along with officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, approve the data from Ruiz's phase of the trial, Fountain will be able to treat her grandson with Epidiolex for the rest of his life, should she choose. Wilfong says he expects to receive approval within the month.

Marijuana and its derivates are classified as Schedule I drugs in the United States, meaning the government considers cannabis to have no medical value. However, as more instances of children successfully treating their seizure disorders with cannabis reach the mainstream, a number of conservative-leaning states have begun to adopt laws that specifically permit CBD-grade marijuana to be used to treat epilepsy. Over the past year, a dozen states, including Florida and Kentucky, have passed legislation to that effect, and nine others are weighing similar measures.

Wilfong said he remains staunchly opposed to state-level efforts that allow children to access cannabis, since at this point, any evidence that it can successfully treat their conditions is anecdotal at best. "Children shouldn't be taking these drugs outside of a study," he said, noting that it's more difficult to know exactly what's in a plant as opposed to a pharmaceutical-grade substance. "There's a great concern about exposing children to products where you're not really sure what they're getting."

Advocates for marijuana reform disagree, arguing that cannabis has successfully been used to treat seizures for centuries. In 1843, for example, British army doctor William O'Shaughnessy documented his use of cannabis oil to quell an infant's near-constant convulsions.

"Cannabis is not a new medicine -- it has been used safely and effectively by human beings for thousands of years," Steve DeAngelo, whose California-based medical marijuana collective, Harborside Health Center, treats epileptic children, told HuffPost. "Meanwhile, there is no pharmaceutical product currently available that is capable of treating severe childhood epilepsy. Unless and until those pharmaceutical products are made available at affordable prices, it is irresponsible for doctors to condemn parents whose only other option is to watch while their children suffer and possibly die."

Fountain agrees. She first learned about the effect CBD oil can have on children with conditions like her grandson's when she saw Sanjay Gupta's 2013 CNN special "Weed," which featured the now-famous story of 7-year-old Colorado resident Charlotte Figi. Figi once suffered from hundreds of violent convulsions a day. Since she started using cannabis, her seizures have been reduced to only a few times a month. A CBD strain of medical marijuana, Charlotte's Web, was named in her honor, and since her story became public, hundreds of families in similar situations have flocked to Colorado in the hopes of using it.

"I was looking at that little girl, saying, 'There's my grandson,'" Fountain said of the time she saw Gupta's report. "All I want is for Izaiah to have some sort of normal life. Just to have a normal 6-year-old little boy. If this CBD oil can give that to him, I want it."

Fountain said she sometimes faces criticism from her peers, who ask her why she would ever want to get her grandson high. "I don't want to get him high," she said. "I'll invite them to come walk a day in my shoes. Live with what I live with. And then tell me you wouldn't do anything and everything you could for your child or your grandchild."


Jul 25, 2008
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New Georgia law allows possession of cannabis oil

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will sign into law a policy allowing people to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil.

The bill known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act” was passed by state legislators.

While the law allows people to possess the cannabis oil, it does not legalize the production of it, meaning people are likely to have to leave the state to get the cannabis oil.

The law applies to qualified patients who are registered with the state.

“It is not broad enough,” Peachtree NORML Executive Director Sharon Ravert said. “It is not tight enough and I believe that patients and caregivers are going to be arrested and that is not what these people need.”

Not all Georgians said they want to see medical marijuana legalized.

“It’s a drug and just like anything else as far as drugs are concerned,” Nancy, who did not want to give her last name, said.

Nancy said her sister-in-law used medical marijuana while battling cancer but she said she still believes legalization can put marijuana in the wrong hands.

“You’re going to get people who are going to able to get it who really aren’t the ones that need to have it,” Nancy said.

Ravert said the law is a good first step but more needs to be done to protect patients and their caregivers.

“This is something that should be decided by patients and their doctors in one-on-one individualized decision-making, and quite frankly the government and the legislators need to get out of the way,” Ravert said.


Jul 25, 2008
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At Cannabis Seder, Bob Marley tunes and a blessing over the weed

This seder included a legal disclaimer.

“The cannabis products at this Seder are available to OMMP cardholders only,” the sign at the check-in table read, referring to the state of Oregon’s medical marijuana program. “All others consume at your own risk.”

The fine print explained the facts: While Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana use last November, the measure wouldn’t take effect until July 1. Portland’s district attorney had vowed not to prosecute in the meantime, but the message was clear: If I wanted to get stoned on pot chocolates, the hosts of the country’s first official Cannabis Seder bore no responsibility.

Heading into the airy warehouse where the third-night seder was held, I ran into Roy Kaufmann, one half of the married couple behind the evening’s festivities. Kaufmann – a seasoned activist – directs the advocacy group Le’Or, which since its founding last year has worked to put marijuana legalization on the Jewish communal agenda. (JTA profiled the organization in February.)

The Cannabis Seder for a New Drug Peace — billed as a place for “an honest Jewish conversation about topics we were taught were strictly taboo – about drugs, race, and justice,” marked Le’Or’s inaugural event.

Kveller, earlier this month published an April Fools post “Blazin’ Seder: How to Incorporate Marijuana Into Your Passover Celebration.” But the Le’Or event, which brought together about 50 people, was no joke.

Seated around reclaimed hardwood tables, seder-goers parsed the failings of America’s long-running drug war — which has had devastating consequences for people of color — and passed joints to celebrate Oregon’s newfound cannabis freedoms.

Cannabis consultant Brie Bergman, right, smokes a joint with Adam Eidinger, who led Washington D.C.’s marijuana legalization campaign. (Alain Sylvestre Media)

When it came time to begin the seder and say the blessing over the wine, a new tradition was added to the service: reciting the blessing over the weed.

In the absence of a prayer for cannabis, Kaufmann – author of the Drug War-themed Haggadah that guided our seder – borrowed from the Havdalah ritual.

The prayer “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, the king of the world, who creates myriad fragrant spices” — traditionally recited over the fragrant spices at the close of every Sabbath — became the de facto ganja blessing.

Later, a vocal soloist led us in singing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” (“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds.”), and we chanted the Shema prayer to the beat of an African djembe drum.

Le’Or’s major sponsor, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap Company President David Bronner, was seated at my table, along with his partner in hemp activism, Adam Eidinger. Eidinger had flown in from Washington D.C., where he led last year’s successful campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use in the nation’s capital.

Other seder guests included Marsha Rosenbaum and Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance – a driving force behind marijuana legalization efforts nationwide – and Diane Goldstein, a 53-year-old retired police lieutenant from Rendondo Beach, Calif., who traded in her badge to speak out against the Drug War.

At the Le’Or seder, while some Passover rituals were left intact – the washing of the hands, for one – most were subject to reinvention. Even the seder plate looked different from all other seder plates: As a symbol of freedom and protest, a marijuana leaf had been substituted for the usual piece of lettuce.

By the time the seder meal (wild-caught salmon) was finished, glass Mason jars previously stuffed with Oregon’s Finest cannabis flowers sat empty, and the spread of dark chocolate truffles “made with full extract cannabis oil,” according to the Leif Medicinals label, had been plundered.

What remained was a sordid array of hemp wick, unopened jars of cannabis butter and a room full of activists who committed to ending America’s Drug War in the name of the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam, or building a better world.

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