MJ News for 06/12/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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With Marijuana Legalized, a City in Washington State Says, ‘Not So Fast’

SEATTLE — The first retail shops selling legal recreational marijuana in Washington State are preparing to open next month. Cash registers are standing by, and the first crops are almost ready for harvesting. But not every part of the state is joining the party.

The state attorney general, in a nonbinding legal opinion, has said local governments can regulate marijuana under the statute legalizing its recreational use, and at least 10 cities and counties in Washington have gone even further, banning marijuana businesses outright. An additional 69 municipalities, and 12 counties, have voted for moratoriums on such businesses, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center, a nonprofit group in Seattle that works with local governments on multiple issues.

Now, a lawsuit brought by a man who was denied a license to sell marijuana in Wenatchee in central Washington’s apple-growing country is challenging the rights of local governments to ban marijuana businesses — and also raising the possibility that the state’s marijuana law will come under sharp legal scrutiny.

The plaintiff, Shaun Preder, has been told by the city that he will not get a local business license to sell marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law — and that all Wenatchee businesses must comply with federal law.

Mr. Preder, who runs an office furniture store in Woodinville, near Seattle, said he spent about $12,000 in rent for a 3,000 square-foot shop in Wenatchee that he had hoped to open for marijuana sales. But uncertainty about a license has kept him from spending more to get the place ready.

Wenatchee’s City Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide whether to respond to the suit, which was filed in Chelan County Superior Court. A resolve to fight — especially if the city takes the position that federal law pre-empts state law — could ultimately take the suit to the United States Supreme Court, where the conflicts between federal and state laws on marijuana have never been addressed, legal experts said.

Washington’s marijuana law could be affirmed by the courts, or struck down. And what unfolds in Wenatchee, a city of about 33,000 that was closely divided from the start about the wisdom of legal marijuana — with a narrow majority in the county supporting it in 2012 — could set the stage. Backers of legalization say it is a fight they are eager for, asserting that the statute will be affirmed.

“We need clarity,” said Alison Holcomb, the criminal justice director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State and primary author of the Initiative 502 statute.

Ms. Holcomb said the A.C.L.U. would seek to intervene in the case only if Wenatchee specifically claims federal protection for its position. “The federal pre-emption issue hasn’t been resolved,” she said.

But a will to fight is not the only consideration. Wenatchee’s mayor, Frank Kuntz, who does not have a vote on the seven-member City Council, has said the city cannot afford hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Mr. Kuntz urged the Council last fall to drop the word federal from the licensing code, and to grant the marijuana licenses that might be pending, but the Council affirmed the language instead by a 4-to-3 vote.

Mr. Preder’s lawyer, Hilary Bricken, said that no matter what the Council decides on Thursday, her client has already been harmed by Wenatchee’s actions because the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which regulates recreational marijuana, said it would proceed first in license applications in places where the local authorities are not trying to bar the door. She said she would seek an emergency court order holding the city’s ban in abeyance if the suit goes forward.

Another legal expert who studies marijuana law said that uncertainty, at least for now, is the only certainty — in Washington and any other state considering legalization.

“As long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, you will have a certain amount of grayness in the system,” said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and editor of the online legal forum, Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform.

Professor Berman said the strains of a system without uniformity — legal under one legal code, illegal under another — echo the cracks that emerged near the end of alcohol prohibition, when some states in the 1920s began to back off enforcement of the Volstead Act banning alcohol even as federal enforcement continued.

In marijuana regulation and enforcement, he added, “Unintended legal consequences are inevitable because it’s a territory we’re still kind of ambivalent about as a nation.”

Mr. Preder, 34, who said he has never been involved in the marijuana business before, said he has also never been invited in by the city to talk about his plans. But he rented a space bigger than most proposed marijuana shops around the state, which he said average about 2,000 square feet, because he believes that Wenatchee’s market will be strong.

“Plenty of room to grow,” he said.


Jul 25, 2008
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S.C Voters Favor Legalized Gambling, Medical Marijuana

When South Carolina voters went to the polls Tuesday, besides voting for the candidates running for office they also got to vote on some non-binding referendum questions. Republicans had two questions while the Democrats had three.

Republican voters said they favor extending the right to life to unborn children starting at conception, which would ban abortions if it were to become law. The actual question asked, "Should Article I, Section 3 of the South Carolina Constitution be amended to include the following language?

The privileges and immunities of citizens of South Carolina and the United States shall not be abridged, so that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. These rights shall extend to both born and pre-born persons beginning at conception."

79 percent of Republican primary voters voted yes.

The second question for Republicans was whether the state income tax should be phased out completely. "Should South Carolina Law be amended to replace the state income tax imposed on individuals, estates, trusts, and others by reducing the rate of taxation by 1.4 percent each year until the state income tax rate for all brackets is zero percent?"

80 percent of Republican voters approved of that idea.

State Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore says the state would make up for the lost revenue in overall economic growth. "We would have huge growth in the state from businesses moving here. You look at Texas, you look at Florida, states without income taxes, and the huge growth they've had despite a tough economy the last ten years or so. We think the growth here would be huge," he says.

Sen. Katrina Shealy filed a bill this year that would have done that, and Gov. Nikki Haley supports it, but it didn't pass.

Democrats voted on whether states, not Congress, should decide whether to allow online gambling and how to regulate it. That passed with 72 percent of the vote.

Democratic voters also favored allowed the use of medical marijuana for people with chronic, severe illnesses documented by a doctor. That passed with 81 percent of the vote.

And 75 percent of voters in the Democratic primary said the state should legalize gambling as a way to raise new money to fix roads and bridges.

Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, says House Democrats will come up with a bill next year to try to do that.

"Obviously overwhelmingly supported in the Democratic primary, but I hear a lot from independents and Republicans who see that as something we ought to think about," he says.

Since the referendum questions were non-binding, this was basically an opinion poll. But leaders of both parties say the numbers give them a much better idea of voters' feelings than an opinion poll because of the numbers involved.

Around 290,000 people voted on the Republican questions and more than 114,000 voted on the Democratic ones.


Jul 25, 2008
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In tiny Nebraska towns, a flood of Colorado marijuana

SEDGWICK, Colo. — A marijuana store owner this week opened up a new frontier in the ongoing cat-and-mouse border war between pot buyers and police officers across the Nebraska state line just six miles away.

Sedgwick Alternative Relief opened for legal marijuana sales Saturday in this town of about 150 people tucked into Colorado's far northeast corner, more than 170 miles from Denver.

Police officers in small Nebraska towns along the Colorado border say they've seen a massive influx of marijuana flowing into and through their communities, particularly along the east-west Interstate 80. They say it's now only natural to expect even more pot will find its way across the border, where it remains illegal.

"He's probably going to be the busiest guy in Colorado," said Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward from his office in Chappell, Neb., about 15 miles from the new store. "For people coming in from the east, he's basically cornering the market, cutting four hours off a trip because they don't have to go to Denver."

As states across the country increasingly legalize medical marijuana, and consider legalizing recreational marijuana, Hayward said the last few years provide solid lessons for the accompanying challenges.

Felony drug arrests in Chappell — just 7 miles north of the Colorado border along a dusty dirt road — have skyrocketed 400% in three years, and deputies say they are seeing large amounts of marijuana moving through their area, Hayward said.

Last fall, Hayward and another deputy stopped a man for speeding on I-80 and discovered the previously convicted felon's minivan was stacked with totes and buckets stuffed with 75 pounds of marijuana, assorted pot products and a loaded handgun. For cops such as Hayward, that arrest and many others prove that Colorado's legalization is having impacts far beyond its own borders.

"Is it all coming from Colorado? **** no. It's coming from all over. But I can tell you our numbers are double what they were last year," said BJ Wilkinson, the police chief in Sidney, Neb., a town of about 7,000, which is about 10 miles from the Colorado border. "Twice as often now, when we walk up to a car, we can smell burned marijuana."

Colorado law limits non-resident sales to no more than a quarter of an ounce at a time, and bars anyone from possessing more than one ounce. Wilkinson and Hayward say the offenders who drive that pot across state lines are clogging their small court systems and jails, not Colorado's. Legalization proponents have long argued that eliminating penalties for possessing such a widely used drug makes more sense than demonizing it.

Wilkinson said his officers are on track to make twice as many marijuana-related arrests this year as they did in 2013, when there were 35. The federally funded Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area team says it has documented a 13,000% increase in marijuana seizures in its four-state operating area from 2005 to 2012. Those statistics were gathered before recreational sales of marijuana became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014.

Tom Gorman, who runs the task force, said many dispensaries are selling "out the back door" to buyers willing to risk getting caught in return for doubling their money.

"It's the perfect storm for it to happen," said Gorman. "Legalized grows. Legalized sales. And phenomenal quality."

Not every state is seeing the same kinds of trends as Nebraska. In Wyoming, the highway patrol has seen seizures drop from more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana in 2012 to 551 pounds last year, and has seized about 260 pounds this year. In Farmington, N.M., across Colorado's southern border, police report no significant increase in marijuana arrests or citations.

Back in Sedgwick, marijuana store owner Michael Kollarits said he and his small staff are going out of their way to tell non-residents to consume their pot in Colorado.

"We said, No. 1, do not ask me for advice on how to take this out of this state. And No. 2, if you do, prepare to give up your firearms, give up your right to vote," said Kollarits. "I don't want to taint (my business) by coming across as some low-life drug dealer ... working on cross-border trafficking. That's the complete opposite of what we want to do."

Kollarits said he hopes to work with Hayward to track marijuana-seizure trends. Hayward said he and his deputies will probably begin more frequently patrolling the rural back roads of the Colorado-Nebraska border to intercept smugglers.

"Some idiot is going to do it, and some idiot is going to get caught, but it's not going to happen because we didn't tell them it was a really, really bad idea," said Kollarits. "We want to be the first stop people make in Colorado, not the last."


Jul 25, 2008
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Copycat? Hershey's says marijuana edibles violate trademark

Reese's cup or Reefer's cup? Almond Joy or Ganja Joy?

Hershey's has filed two trademark infringement complaints over marijuana edibles the candy company says look like their products.

The Pennsylvania-based chocolate maker is suing Tincturebelle, a pot-infused candy manufacturer in Colorado, and Conscious Care Cooperative, a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington state.

MORE: In tiny Nebraska towns, a flood of Colorado marijuana

The lawsuits, both filed June 3, claim the pot-infused candy violates Hershey's trademarks, dilutes its brand and is "unfair competition" to the company.

Hershey's said the similarities between its ordinary candy and the pot candy could cause someone to "inadvertently ingest" the pot candy, according to the complaints.

Seattle-based CCC sells a peanut butter Reefer's cup and Kush cup that Hershey's says resemble its Reese's cups, as well as a Mr. Dankbar that is "in mimicry" of Hershey's Mr. Goodbar packaging and design, according to Hershey's complaint.

CCC does not manufacture the pot-infused candy it sells, said Nathan Paine, a lawyer for CCC, in an interview with USA TODAY Network.

Hershey sues #marijuana vendors for selling "Reefer's Peanut Butter Cup" http://t.co/KdR2fhxE4lpic.twitter.com/GWAv4Jv4w0

— David Nelson (@DavidNelsonNews) June 6, 2014
In Denver, Tincturebelle makes a Ganja Joy candy bar that Hershey's says infringes on its Almond Joy product, Hasheath, that Hershey's says looks like a Heath bar, and a Dabby Patty it says copies its York peppermint patty. The products are sold in Colorado's medical dispensaries and pot shops.

USA TODAY has requested comment from Tincturebelle.

Medical marijuana is legal in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington are the only two states with legal recreational marijuana, and Washington's retail stores are expected to open as early as next month.

Hershey's is not seeking a specific dollar amount in damages, but a company spokesman said "significant damages" are in order, in addition to stopping the use of the trademarks, according to Jeff Beckman, spokesman for Hershey's, in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.

At CCC, the only people who can purchase items at the dispensary are medical marijuana patients, Paine said. The dispensary is not open to the public and does not sell any regular candy that's not infused with pot.

"Even if they're similar, is a patient really going to go to their own collective and purchase a Kush cup thinking they're getting a Reese's cup? No reasonable juror would ever buy that argument," Paine said.

It's unclear why Hershey's chose to file the suit against CCC specifically. Paine said there are other larger dispensaries that probably sell more of the same products.

In his e-mail, Beckman did not specify why the company singled out CCC, but said Hershey's would "seek to stop both the manufacture and sale of these infringing products."


Jul 25, 2008
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New Report Blasts DEA For Spending 4 Decades Obstructing Marijuana Science

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been impeding and ignoring the science on marijuana and other drugs for more than four decades, according to a report released this week by the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a marijuana research organization.

“The DEA is a police and propaganda agency," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Wednesday. “It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice."

The report alleges that the DEA has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana. The drug is currently classified as Schedule I, which the DEA reserves for the "most dangerous" drugs with "no currently accepted medical use." Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions -- in 1973, 1995 and again in 2002 -- the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of the cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.

The report criticizes the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also criticizes the agency for creating a "regulatory Catch-22" by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.

A spokesperson at the DEA declined to comment on the report.

The feds have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance, but that trend appears to be changing.

According to The Hill, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has conducted about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana. NIDA oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana grown for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. -- a process through which the only federally sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.

The joint report comes less than two weeks after the House approved three amendments taking aim at the DEA and its ability to enforce federal marijuana and hemp laws in states which have legal marijuana operations and industrial hemp programs. The medical marijuana amendment was sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

"Nobody should be afraid of the truth," Rohrabacher said Wednesday. "There's a lot of other drugs that have harmful side effects. Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven."

The federal government's interest in marijuana certainly appears to be growing. Since 2003, it has approved more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. In 2003, 22 grants totaling $6 million were approved for cannabis research. In 2012, that number had risen to 69 approved grants totaling more than $30 million.

"The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurably suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana," Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said in a statement. "The DEA’s obstruction of the FDA approval process for marijuana has -- to the DEA’s dismay -- unintentionally catalyzed state-level medical marijuana reforms.”

Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states -- Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin -- have legalized CBD oils, made from a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.

A number of recent studies have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use also has been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.

Nadelmann said the DEA has "demonstrated a regular pattern of abusing its discretionary powers."

"We believe this authority would be better handled by another government agency in the health realm, or even better still, by an organization that is truly independent, perhaps something that involves the National Academy of Sciences," he said. "We will be working to encourage greater congressional oversight and also to call for reforms of federal law."


Jul 25, 2008
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Republicans jump into Florida campaign against medical marijuana

The stakes are getting higher - politically and financially - in Florida's heated campaign over a November referendum to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana.

The latest financial reports by the two main groups fighting the legalization of medical marijuana show a total of more than $7.7 million has been raised to oppose the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Proponents of the referendum got a head start with Orlando personal injury attorney John Morgan providing most of the $5 million spent so far by People United for Medical Marijuana, though much of that was devoted to gathering and validating voter petitions and defending the ballot language in court.

Deep-pocketed Republicans have since jumped into the battle. The Drug Free Florida campaign, which opposes the amendment, has raised $2.7 million, including a $2.5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor.

This week, the non-partisan Florida Sheriffs Association began a separate "educational campaign" against the amendment.

Polls show a majority of Floridians support medical marijuana legalization but constitutional amendments need a 60 percent majority in order to pass.

"I'm not 100 percent sure it's a slam dunk," said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. "We're starting to see a lot more attention to some of the unintended consequences (of marijuana legalization) that have happened in Colorado, the negative side of it."

The Florida amendment is also enmeshed in the hot race for governor. Republican Governor Rick Scott opposes it, while former Governor Charlie Crist, who is seeking to return to the office as a Democrat, supports it.

MacManus said constitutional amendment campaigns sometimes draw big money - trial lawyers and doctors have had big ballot battles over medical malpractice, and casino interests bankrolled some failed initiatives - but the marijuana fight figures to cost more than any previous issues election.

Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently said the amendment is too broadly drafted, prompting a stinging rebuke from Morgan, a major party donor who called for her removal as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Florida legislature last month passed a bill that would legalize but strictly limit the distribution of a noneuphoric strain of marijuana believed to reduce epileptic seizures. Scott has said he will sign it into law.

November's referendum is a broader proposal that would allow physicians to recommend the regular form of marijuana to people with debilitating ailments.


Jul 25, 2008
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Ozark couple appears on pro-marijuana billboard

OZARK – Marijuana cost him an arrest, legal fees and his business, but Daryl Bertrand insists it saved his life. As he and his wife attempt to rebuild and provide for their family, they want to fight for the drug they say could keep Daryl’s pain at bay.

Daryl and Patricia Bertrand can be found living in Ozark raising their two teenage children. Their faces appear on an advertisement for Show-Me Cannabis, an organization seeking for a prohibition on marijuana to be lifted in Missouri.

Daryl Bertrand suffers from degenerative disc disease and stenosis of the spine. To date, he has undergone three spinal surgeries and expects to have more. He took prescription painkillers to manage the pain from his spinal disorders but says he suffered potentially deadly side effects.

“I can’t take anything; my liver shuts down,” Bertrand said. “On the second liver failure, they finally attributed it to the narcotic, the medication.”

Bertrand started growing marijuana in early 2007 when he thought his options to treat the pain in his spine had been exhausted. He says using marijuana improved his quality of life.

“It was keeping me working, it was keeping me a functioning member of society, along with my chiropractor,” Bertrand said.

Bertrand worked through his symptoms for much of his life, but he broke his back in a slip-and-fall accident in July 2009 and had a spinal fusion in April 2010.

Bertrand says he inhaled marijuana using a vaporizer, which uses hot air to extract the oils found in ground marijuana and convert the oils into vapor, rather than by smoking it. He says he made his doctors aware that he used marijuana to manage pain.

“I did not hide my cannabis use from my doctors,” Bertrand said.

Search and seizure

Four days after Bertrand returned home from the hospital, officers from the COMET Drug Task force served a search warrant on a building the Bertrands owned in Ozark.

The couple ran their own business selling playground equipment from a location on Third Street in Ozark. They also made their home in the building and kept a room for growing marijuana in the attic.

On May 20, 2010, officers searched the building and found 47 marijuana plants, but Bertrand says they were looking for money they didn’t find. Bertrand says he believes police searched the building to bolster their task force’s budget with forfeited drug money.

“The raid was more about asset forfeiture potential than it was the cannabis I was growing because of how angry they got and the threats they made to us over there not being a significant sum of cash for them to seize, because I wasn’t dealing it (in exchange for cash),” Bertrand said.

Bertrand maintains the marijuana he grew in his home was for his own use and that he didn’t sell processed marijuana or the plants.

Court records show Daryl and Patricia Bertrand were each charged with the class B felony of producing a controlled substance. In separate court cases, they entered guilty pleas to their original charges to avoid prison time. Daryl received an eight-year suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation; Patricia was sentenced to five years, and her sentence was also suspended. Their probationary periods will both expire this year.

While they avoided prison, news of the arrests and convictions led them to close their playground equipment business.

“There was just no way the business could survive,” Patricia Bertrand said.

Couple’s path to involvement

The court battles led the Bertrands to learning more about Show Me Cannabis, and the two became activists for the decriminalization of marijuana and legal reform of laws regulating the drug.

“If I had never been raided, I more than likely would not be an activist at all,” Daryl Bertrand said.

“I don’t use marijuana,” Patricia Bertrand said. “I was just as guilty in the eyes of the law as he was.”

As their activity with the Show Me Cannabis group grew, other members asked them about being part of an advertising campaign.

“It wasn’t an easy decision for us to do the billboard,” Daryl Bertrand said.

The billboard near the 73 mile marker of Interstate 44 was installed just before Memorial Day. Three weeks later, Patricia Bertrand says she and her husband haven’t faced much backlash.

“We have kids — you know, the negative attention — but I don’t think really we’ve faced any of the fears we thought we would,” Patricia Bertrand said.

Before the billboard went up, Daryl Bertrand says Lamar Advertising wanted some confirmation from doctors that the message on the ad could be defended from false advertising complaints.

“This billboard isn’t something that’s fly-by-night. We had to provide, from certified medical professionals, documentation that (marijuana) saved my life in order to put that billboard up,” Bertrand said.

Show Me Cannabis looking to 2016

The Bertrands plan to continue pushing for marijuana law reform.

“There’s tens of thousands of people similar to me in this state, with some sort of medical condition that this plant will help,” Daryl Bertrand said.

Bertrand qualifies for some disability payments now based on his spinal conditions. Patricia Bertrand holds a college degree in business management. Nine months ago, she landed her first job since the arrests, office work through a temporary staffing agency.

Show Me Cannabis plans to file an initiative petition with the Missouri attorney general seeking a marijuana decriminalization proposal for election ballots in 2016. The group would need to collect approximately 160,000 signatures on an initiative petition before voters would be allowed to consider a ballot proposal.

Show Me Cannabis has plans to hold town hall meeting in Ozark featuring a debate between proponents and opponents of the legalization of marijuana use. A similar forum in Branson held May 30 brought in approximately 100 audience members.

Daryl Bertrand says he hasn’t used marijuana since his arrest in 2010. If he violates conditions of his probation, Bertrand says he will have to serve eight years in prison. He walks with a cane and says he struggles with pain in his spine.

“I suffer. I’m totally miserable,” Bertrand said. “I’m too afraid (to use other painkillers).”

Bertrand says he uses prescription painkillers on rare occasions when the pain in his back becomes extremely severe. He estimates he has taken prescription pain medication three times in the past year.