MJ News for 06/17/2014

7greeneyes

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http://www.statesmanjournal.com/sto...zation-initiative-clears-signatures/10626871/




(Oregon) Marijuana legalization initiative clears 100,000 signatures


Supporters of a ballot measure aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in Oregon have collected more than enough signatures to qualify for November's ballot.

"We're planning to continue signatures until we feel like we have a big enough margin," said Peter Zuckerman, spokesman for New Approach Oregon.

The group has collected more than 100,000 signatures; it needs 87,213 valid names from registered voters by July 3. New Approach Oregon, like most campaigns, wants a 25 to 30 percent buffer to account for invalid signatures.

The initiative would ask Oregonians whether they want marijuana to become legal for adults 21 and older and to have the Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulate cannabis much like it does with alcohol. A different group failed to pass a legalization initiative in 2012.

More than $620,000 has been spent on the legalization effort in Oregon so far, according to online records from the Secretary of State's Office.

If passed, the new law would allow a person to possess up to eight ounces and to grow up to four plants. Marijuana would be taxed at $35 an ounce and $5 per plant.

Oregon voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998 for patients with certain medical conditions, such as cancer or severe pain. The Beaver State is one of 22 in the U.S. where the drug is available to patients with prescriptions or waivers from a doctor.
 

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http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/201...urs-buzzing-over-medical-marijuana-in-florida




Entrepreneurs Buzzing Over Medical Marijuana In Florida


Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia now have laws allowing for some form of medical marijuana.

Florida appears poised to join the club. Polls show that voters there are likely to approve a November ballot measure legalizing marijuana for medical use.

If it passes, regulations that would set up a market for medical marijuana in Florida are still at least a year away. But cannabis entrepreneurs from around the country are already setting up shop in the state.

In Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando, there's a business conference every few weeks devoted to a product that's still illegal.

There are a lot of names for marijuana, but in the industry, they mostly call it cannabis. Tom Quigley runs a group called the Florida Cannabis Coalition. Don't confuse that with the Florida Medical Cannabis Association or the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, just three of the dozens of groups started in the months since it became clear that the marijuana measure was moving ahead.

While the vote is months away, there are many who see Florida's impending embrace of medical marijuana as an opportunity that's too good to miss. Quigley greeted about 150 of them at his conference in Orlando.

"We can't teach you in one day how to run a cannabis industry business, but what we can do is bring the best information to you," Quigley says.

There were seminars on cultivating the best strains, converting cannabis into oils and concentrates, and on marketing and legal issues.

Since California became the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, 21 other states have followed suit.

If Florida approves it, it will be the first state in the Southeast to do so. And with nearly 20 million residents, it will be the biggest market outside of California.

The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates medical marijuana will be a $785 million industry in Florida — one that Quigley says will have all kinds of economic opportunities.

"If you want to become a bud tender that works inside one of these dispensaries as an occupation, if you want to run your own business, there's that opportunity as well," Quigley says.

Right now in Florida, the cannabis industry is mostly talk. But money is lining up as well. Quigley is with ArcView, an investor's group that funds cannabis industry startups.

Cannabis-RX, a real estate company based in Arizona, is also active here, investing in properties it plans to sell or lease to growers and operators of dispensaries.

"We look at light industrial commercial buildings that are in the right zoned areas of the cities," says Llorn Kylo, CEO of Cannabis-RX. "And we usually seek between 10,000 and about 100,000 square feet."

Along with real estate, Cannabis-RX also offers budding entrepreneurs financing and consulting services to help them get their businesses off the ground.

At the Orlando conference, Meg Sanders of Gaia, a grower with three dispensaries in Colorado, flew in from Denver. Sanders says she's always looking for opportunities to expand — including in Florida.

"For us, we've worked very hard to create a fantastic template of what we do. And if there's opportunity in other states, we'll definitely be there at the table," says Sanders.

It's unclear exactly what opportunities will arise in Florida. If the medical marijuana amendment passes, the state won't issue regulations for another six months to a year.

Florida's governor recently signed into law a very limited version of medical marijuana — one that allows production and sale only of a special strain that's low in THC. As part of that law, just five nurseries will be allowed to grow it. They have to be large operations that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years.

Chris Rumph, a prospective entrepreneur at the conference, says that regulation has many wondering how welcoming Florida officials will be to the emerging cannabis industry.

"Opening up to nurseries that have been around 30 years, I think that's kind of silly," says Rumph. "We live in a state where we've got thousands of nurseries with people that are very educated and knowledgeable about plants and how to grow things effectively. So, there's a little bit of suspicion there for me."

How the medical marijuana regulations will be written, though, is for the future. For activists and entrepreneurs, the first task is mobilizing Florida voters to actually approve the medical marijuana amendment.
 

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http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/06/16/deadline-approaches-for-ny-medical-marijuana-deal/




Tensions Run High As NY Medical Marijuana Deadline Nears


ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he has serious concerns over a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in New York just hours before the midnight deadline.

The Democrat stymied the efforts of supporters of the so-called Compassionate Care Act Monday, saying that the measure should ban smoking the drug, cut down the number of illnesses it can be prescribed for and require that the program be evaluated in five years.

“If we can address the concerns, there will be a bill,” Cuomo told public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” while defending his suggestions. “But I’m not going to be part of a system that is just going to wreak havoc.”

State Sen. Diane Savino, the Staten Island Democrat who sponsored the measure, said the bill already addresses many of Cuomo’s concerns.
Negotiations between Cuomo’s office, the Assembly and the Senate began late Thursday and are due before midnight so the Legislature can vote on the bill before the session concludes Thursday.

Savino told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell she’s confident the bill will pass.
“We have certainly way more support than we need in the Senate to pass the bill,” she said.

Under the Compassionate Care act, smoking would be banned for anyone under the age of 21, although the drug could still be consumed through a vaporizer, edible or oil. The bill would also allow patients with one of 20 diseases to be administered marijuana under the supervision of a health care professional. Cuomo wants the legislation changed so only doctors could prescribe the drug.

Savino called Cuomo’s position on smoking marijuana a “nonstarter” and disingenuous, citing his executive order to allow 20 hospitals statewide to administer the drug.

“It’s a little distressing that they came in at the 11th hour with a list of concerns and demands,” Savino said. “Many of them are already in the bill.”

Gabriel Sayegh, of the state Drug Policy Alliance, also lashed out at the governor’s requested changes, first reported in the New York Daily News.

“It’s disappointing to have the news of these concerns come out at the very last minute in a leaked Daily News article,” Sayegh told The Associated Press. “It’s hard to imagine the governor’s serious about getting this done.”
While advocates doubt Cuomo’s commitment to the Compassionate Care Act, the Democrat said he would waive the required three-day period a bill has to be on a lawmaker’s desk before it can be voted on.

“Medical marijuana, if done well, is a good thing,” Cuomo said. “If it is not done correctly, it is a public health and public safety disaster.”

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who controls the upper chamber with a faction of Democrats, was noncommittal.

“I’m not ruling it out, not ruling it in,” the Long Island senator told reporters. “But I’ve learned never say ‘never.’”

A Siena College of 835 registered voters released Monday found that 62 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing medical marijuana as opposed to 33 percent who oppose the measure.
 

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...rijuana-use-may-soon-be-permitted-in-jamaica/




Forget Colorado — marijuana use may soon be permitted in Jamaica


In Colorado, they legalized it for the tax revenue.

In Jamaica, it’s a matter of faith.

After months of discussion, the island nation’s parliament is expected to vote this fall on a proposal to allow the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.

It would make possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use a “ticketable infraction.” And it would “decriminalize” the use of ganja for medical and religious purposes.

If that confuses you — decriminalizing pot but still ticketing those who possess it — you’ve got company.

“It simply doesn’t make sense,” the Jamaican Observer editorialized. How, it asked, does fining people “square with the government’s proposal to allow the use of the herb for religious purposes?” The question remains unanswered, but the move was definitely aimed at least in part at promoting religious freedom.

But what religion endorses marijuana use?

Rastafarianism — a singular movement founded in Jamaica in the 1930s.

Specifically: Rastas wear their hair in dreadlocks, eschew alcohol, often disdain homosexuality, are vegetarian and worship Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, who died (and may have been murdered) in 1975.

And Rastas smoke dope. From the BBC:

Marijuana is regarded as a herb of religious significance. It is used in Rastafari reasoning sessions, which are communal meetings involving meditation. According to Leonard Barrett, Rastafarians first began using Marijuana in reaction to the treatment of blacks in society. It became a reactionary device to enable freedom from the establishment….

Marijuana is used by Rastafarians to heighten feelings of community and to produce visions of a religious and calming nature. Rastafarians are unlikely to refer to the substance as marijuana; they usually describe it as the wisdom weed or the holy herb.

The latter name is used because Rastafarians believe that marijuana use is sacred, following biblical texts justifying its use.


Stereotypes of weed-smoking, dreadlocked Rastas abound. The Rastas most recognizable to many in the United States may be musicians such as Bob Marley and Bad Brains, the legendary punk band founded in Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s.

But while it’s easy to stereotype Rastas, marijuana use in Jamaica is linked to religious freedom. Indeed, in 2001, Jamaica’s National Commission on Ganja concluded that marijuana’s “reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually enhancing substance is so strong that it is must be regarded as culturally entrenched.”

In 2012, some estimated that up to 10 percent of the island’s 2.7 million people are Rastafarian.

So, if Jamaica permits marijuana use in the fall, more than 200,000 will celebrate — though they can still be ticketed and fined.

Until that vote, here is former Marley bandmate Peter Tosh performing “Legalize It”:
 

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http://www.tampabay.com/news/politi...harlottes-web-marijuana-bill-into-law/2184590




(Florida) Gov. Rick Scott signs 'Charlotte's Web' medical marijuana bill


TALLAHASSEE — As he promised, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on Monday that legalizes the use of a noneuphoric strain of marijuana to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease and cancer.

He signed Senate Bill 1030, which approves the medication, nicknamed Charlotte's Web, and SB 1700, which protects the identities of the patients who use it.

"As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer," Scott said in a statement. "The approval of Charlotte's Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life."

The governor's office also announced today that he approved HB 697, which bans six new synthetic drugs.

There is still a larger medical marijuana debate going on this year in Florida. Voters will be asked in November to weigh in on Amendment 2, a much broader medical pot referendum that would legalize marijuana for a range of conditions.

Scott said that he personally opposes legalizing medical marijuana and the ballot initiative.

"I've watched drug use; I've watched alcoholism," he said during a campaign stop Monday. "I've seen how it affects families; I can't support that."

The Charlotte's Web bill legalizes strains of marijuana that are high in cannabidiol, or CBD, but low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces a high.

An estimated 125,000 children in Florida suffer from severe epilepsy and their families lobbied hard to persuade reluctant legislators to open the door to limited use. It also could be used by adults.

Authorized patients will be allowed access to the drug through oil or vapor form, but it may not be smoked.

If 60 percent of Florida voters approve Amendment 2, it would allow doctors to prescribe other forms of marijuana, including the kind that is smoked, to treat an even wider range of conditions.

The bill was amended at the ninth hour to stiffen licensing requirements so that only Florida nursery owners with businesses in operation for 30 continuous years will be allowed to grow "Charlotte's Web."

Florida physicians who have been authorized to order this strain of medical marijuana can start writing prescriptions Jan. 1. It will be sold through dispensaries licensed by the state Department of Health.

Most of the Legislature's Republican leadership opposes the rival constitutional ballot initiative, as does the Florida Sheriff's Association and the Florida Medical Association. Many speculated that the GOP-controlled Legislature agreed to pass the low-THC proposal to squash voter interest in passing the amendment, which opponents believe will lead to the total legalization of smoking marijuana, misuse and abuse.

Some Democrats have argued that the Republican opposition to Amendment 2 is additionally based upon a fear that voters who support the initiative are more apt to support Democratic candidates.

United for Care, the main organization advocating in favor of Amendment 2, issued a statement praising Scott for signing SB 1030 but insisting more should be done.

"Today is an important day for our cause, but while tens of thousands of Floridians are one step closer to a healthier life, many times that number can draw nothing but hope from this move," said Ben Pollara, the group's manager. "The only definitive and conclusive solution to removing the barriers faced by patients with debilitating conditions who can benefit from the use of medical cannabis is the approval of Amendment 2 on Nov. 4."

The campaign is supported by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who has spent about $4 million of his own fortune.

The Vote No on 2 campaign formed recently to give a voice to the opposition. Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino owner and one of the wealthiest men in the world, donated $2.5 million to bankroll the anti-Amendment 2 effort.
 

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http://www.azcentral.com/story/news...tition-effort-to-legalize-marijuana/10637825/




Arizona group ends 2014 effort to legalize marijuana


Arizona residents won't be toking up in public anytime soon. At least, not legally.

Safer Arizona, a cannabis-reform political-action committee, announced it stopped collecting signatures for its 2014 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana last week.

The volunteer-driven initiative fell well below the 250,000 signatures necessary to get on the ballot, said Mikel Weisser, executive director for Safer Arizona.

"It was around a third of what we were after," Weisser said. "It's not going to be a number that we are rallying behind, it's a benchmark to improve from."

The organization lacked the funding and the manpower to collect all the required signatures, he said. All four of the volunteer organizers held day jobs and could work on the legislation only part time.

Additionally, the ballot initiative faced pushback from within the pro-marijuana community. The measure, if passed, would have redirected the issuing of marijuana licenses from the Arizona Department of Health Services to a revenue-related department, Weisser said.

"There were people in the dispensary industry and the cannabis establishment that liked our vigor and verve, but a lot of people were worried about what we would do for the business model," he said.

Safer Arizona isn't throwing in the towel, however.

The organization has already begun redirecting the momentum of the signature campaign for a 2016 ballot initiative, one that reflects the needs of the community, he said.

Weisser will have his first public meeting for the 2016 initiative with the Yavapai Cannabis Coalition on Wednesday.

"One of the things we have is tens of thousands of people who have already signed for us, and hundreds of people who have already volunteered for us and now we will be able to build out of that a much mightier ballot initiative," Weisser said.

To do that, Safer Arizona plans to build a united front with the Marijuana Policy Project, the organization that drafted Arizona's medical-marijuana bill, and already has plans to draft a bill similar to the one passed in Colorado.

"Over the next couple years we will be building a broad coalition of community activists, local leaders, organizations and businesses that are committed to passing a law that regulates marijuana similarly to alcohol," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Our strong network of support in the state will be strengthened even further by joining forces with the dedicated activists behind the 2014 effort. Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered in Arizona."
 

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-17/cannabis-becomes-big-business-in-us/5526006




Cannabis goes corporate: Dot-bong boom explodes as Big Marijuana flexes its muscles


Decades of marijuana prohibition are coming to an end, on the back of a sea change in public opinion. Twenty states have now voted to make the drug legal in one form or another.

Next month, Washington State will be the second state to fully legalise cannabis. New brands and products are flooding the market, for anyone over the age of 21 to buy and consume.

Legal cannabis markets are expected to grow by 64 per cent across the United States in the next year.

Now, Wall Street is moving in. The $40 billion black market in cannabis is going mainstream.

Hundreds of new marijuana businesses - and 2,000 existing medical marijuana sellers - are gearing up for the recreational market to take off. The big players aim to make this an industry to rival beer.

But while there is broad public support for marijuana legalisation, opponents are ramping up the campaign to swing the pendulum back, arguing that America is creating a new Big Tobacco.

And one of that argument's chief proponents is former congressman Patrick Kennedy, the nephew of John F Kennedy and the son of senator Ted Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy has had his own battle with drugs and addiction.

Now he has formed a new organisation called SAM - Smart Approaches to Marijuana - and he is taking on big business.

"It's not about your civil liberty and your ability to smoke a joint now and again," he said.

"This is about a commercial, for-profit behemoth coming in to prey on your kids, addict them [sic] and make money off them ... and at your expense."

'Dot-bong' era begins as Big Marijuana moves into Seattle

Seattle is Washington State's biggest city and a big business town, home to corporate giants like Boeing, Starbucks, and amazon.com.

It is also becoming the headquarters for "Big Marijuana".

Already, the state has received 7,000 applications from businesses wanting to sell recreational cannabis, and the market is being flooded with new products.

Marijuana has been fully legal in Colorado since January this year, but Seattle is where cannabis is going corporate.

The big money is rushing in. The dot-bong era has begun.

"Interestingly, I have never used cannabis," says Michael Blue, a Yale MBA graduate and entrepreneur.

The son of a surgeon, from a conservative home in Arkansas, he is probably the last person you would expect to see going into this business.

The same goes for his two partners - Christian Groh and Brendan Kennedy, another Yale MBA graduate.

Four years ago they created Privateer Holdings, the first equity company dedicated to the marijuana industry.

Brendan Kennedy was working at a Silicon Valley bank when he came up with the idea.

"We were looking for holes in the marketplace," he said.

What he saw back then were opinion polls showing that for the first time, a majority of Americans were in favour of ending the prohibition of cannabis. Support for medical marijuana was even higher. Eight out of 10 Americans supported marijuana for medical use.

"When we first started going into this industry we asked ourselves, morally, 'Would we feel comfortable being in the cannabis industry?'" he said.

"I'm not sure I could work in the tobacco industry. I'm not sure I could work in the alcohol industry.

"But having talked to so many patients and physicians, and talked to so many activists who are interested in individual civil liberties, or patient rights - you know, we feel there's some moral imperative to succeed."

As the failures of America's war on drugs became clearer, and stories spread of cancer and epilepsy patients being helped by cannabis, state after state began putting cannabis on the ballot and voters began passing it.

But it is still a risky business. Marijuana might be legal in 20 states, but it is still illegal under federal law. The Obama administration has essentially told federal drug authorities to look the other way.

And business is thriving. Selling marijuana has gone way beyond simply packing ziplock plastic bags with a gram or two of dried buds.

Marijuana product range expands with hi-tech options

The marijuana industry is now hi-tech and brand-aware with electronic joints, similar to e-cigarettes, coming pre-loaded with cannabis oil promising "150 puffs guaranteed!" Marijuana-infused food products range from lollipops to nut bars to carbonated drinks.

Then there are electronic marijuana pens you connect via a USB port. The waxy substance inside is 90 per cent THC - the chemical that gets you high in cannabis - one puff on this is the equivalent of a whole joint.

Patrick Kennedy has enlisted president Barack Obama's former drugs adviser Kevin Sabet to his cause.

Dr Sabet is concerned about the health risks of these new products.

"They don't understand that today's marijuana can often be upwards of 90 per cent THC ... extracted in a wax that is combusted and inhaled," he said.

"And that can often lead to emergency room admissions. I mean for the baby boomers, [the fact] people are going to the hospital for ingesting a marijuana cookie, or one of these wax things, is totally foreign. And yet it is the reality for a lot of kids."

Privateer stays on the right side of federal law by not buying companies that directly deal with cannabis in the US. Its flagship buy was a website which is now the go-to domain to search and review strains of marijuana.

It took them a year to raise their first $7.4 million from wary investors. Now, they are about to close a fundraising round of $106 million. They will not even talk to investors who do not have a least $1 million to invest.

"If you look globally, it's a $US150 billion industry," said Mr Blue.

"It will only grow as further legalisation takes place."

Fears cannabis industry will target those who can't stop

The momentum for more states to legalise seems unstoppable. Public support is trending up but most importantly, Wall Street is moving in.

And that is what worries former US congressman Patrick Kennedy.

"What's really behind this legalisation is money, plain and simple," he said.

Patrick Kennedy is no longer in Congress. He pulled the pin on his career in 2010 to deal with a raging addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs that at one point, saw him crash his car into a barricade outside the Capitol Building.

"It's enormously humiliating," he said. "I would never have willingly chosen to humiliate myself and bring shame on my family, not just once, twice, three, four, five times.

"I mean, I have lost count of the amount of times that I said, 'Oh my God, look at what I've done to my family'."

Now married and the father of two children, he has been in recovery for four years.

"Just like the liquor industry. They don't make money off average drinkers. They make money off people like me, because I couldn't stop," he said.

"The mentally ill, or those who have predisposition for addiction and alcoholism ... they are really the candidates that the Big Marijuana industry is targeting.

"You capture an addiction, you've got a customer."

He is out to spread the message that cannabis is more addictive than people realise, far more potent than it used to be, and a danger to people at risk of mental illness.

But he has a **** of a task in front of him.

The fact is, plenty of Americans enjoy using cannabis and while a certain proportion become addicted, many find it does not ruin their lives.

And they have years of their own experience of doing it illegally to draw on.

Cannabis retailer campaigns for end to prohibition

John Davis, who put the money he earned from his career in construction into shops selling cannabis to the public, says the drug is not harmful.

"This is not dangerous. I have smoked this marijuana," he told the ABC at his dispensary in West Seattle.

"It didn't give me homicidal urges. Right? It made me enjoy a movie."

Unlike the Ivy League crew at Privateer, Mr Davis deals directly in cannabis.

And under federal law, that means he is risking serious prison time, but he says somebody has to do it in order to end marijuana prohibition for good.

"Look, Patrick Kennedy had a severe drug problem. That doesn't make him a policy expert," Mr Davis said.

"We have the highest prison population of any other civilisation in the history of civilisation.

"We jail people at an astonishing rate. For what? For drugs. Does that help the drug problem? Because it doesn't make the drugs go away."

Lobbyist hired to push pot's cause on Capitol Hill

But the battle is not being played out in Mr Davis' marijuana dispensary in Seattle. It is in Washington DC.

Because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the cannabis industry is locked out of the banking system. The entire multi-million-dollar business operates in cash.

So the industry has hired a lobbyist to try to convince federal lawmakers to change the regulations.

Patrick Kennedy says if that happens, the money spigot will be opened up, and it will be all but impossible to turn off again.

"When you have those kinds of profits, you can saturate the political system. And most importantly, you can saturate the airwaves with your message," he said.

"It basically took 50 years before you got the political will to change our policy around allowing tobacco companies to market their product with impunity. So let's use that as a case study."

The US Congress - and the rest of the country – will be watching the Denver and Seattle experiments closely, but Mr Davis says there is no going back.

"The wall is falling, and everyone sees it," he said. "And everyone's astonished. But it doesn't stop."

"The end of prohibition is now, because prohibition is a bankrupt policy that doesn't work."

Patrick Kennedy says those who currently say they support legalisation have not been told what it means in practice.

"I think what's going to turn the American people off is less the notion of marijuana - although that's going to be a big factor - than the notion that you're going to have this big commercial, big money, corporation."

"There are definitely going to be consumers, and a good percentage of them are never going to leave you.

"Well, if you're an industry ... I mean that's just like you've hit the jackpot."
 

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http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/17/us-gw-pharma-idINKBN0ES1M920140617





GW Pharma hits high as cannabis drug helps fight epilepsy


An experimental cannabis drug has produced promising results in a small study of children with hard-to-treat epilepsy, sending shares in its British maker GW Pharmaceuticals to an all-time high.

The company, which grows cannabis under license at a secret location in Britain, is developing a range of so-called cannabinoid medicines. It already sells Sativex for spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis across Europe.

The latest findings for its new product Epidiolex follow an assessment of 27 children and young adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy who were given the drug in two U.S. hospitals under an expanded access program.

Epidiolex is given as a strawberry-lime flavored syrup twice a day. The medicine contains the cannabinoid CBD but none of the psychoactive ingredient THC that makes marijuana smokers high.

GW said on Tuesday that results after 12 weeks of therapy in the open-label study were "encouraging", with a reduction in seizure frequency of more than 50 percent. It now plans to start a Phase II/III clinical trial in the second half of the year.

Justin Gover, GW's chief executive, said he expected Epidiolex would be ready for submission to U.S. and European regulators in 2016.

Epidiolex has been granted “orphan drug” status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which may ease its path to market and also offers GW additional exclusivity.

The designation reflects the unmet need for new approaches to help children with severe epilepsy syndromes such as Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut, where seizures often persist despite high doses of multiple anti-epileptic drugs.

Excitement over prospects for Epidiolex has been a driver for GW's shares, which have surged since the company tapped into a new U.S. shareholder base by listing on Nasdaq a year ago.

"It has become a central part of our valuation - there is no doubt about that," Gover said in an interview. "That reflects a number of reasons: the fact there is so much interest among physicians and patients, the fact it is an orphan development program and the fact we own all the commercial rights worldwide."

Shares in GW gained 15 percent to a record high of 430 pence by 1400 GMT.

Interest in cannabis has been spurred recently by the legalization of recreational marijuana shops in Colorado and Canada's move to create a federally regulated medical marijuana industry.

GW, however, distances itself from these developments by emphasizing its ability to extract key ingredients in cannabis for medical use, in the same way that pain-killing opioids have been developed from opium.

Its established product Sativex, which is given as an under-the-tongue spray, is currently available by prescription for MS spasticity in 11 countries and has received regulatory approval in an additional 13 countries.

Sativex is also in final-stage Phase III clinical development as a potential treatment of pain in people with advanced cancer.
 

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