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Jul 25, 2008
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Austin City Council to consider resolution regarding medical marijuana

AUSTIN -- This week the Austin City Council will consider a resolution supporting medical marijuana in Texas.

Two council members are sponsoring the resolution, and an Austin mother says she'll be watching this item closely.

Shaded from the hot Texas sun, 9-year-old Lance enjoys a popsicle with his twin sister. The peaceful scene doesn't show his struggle to speak or his problems with sleeping and aggression.

Lance is autistic.

Lance's mother, Thalia Michelle, believes medical cannabis could help her son. "It could help with his hyperactivity, cognition, focus [and] even speech," she said. "This isn't just about smoking for nausea and pain anymore."

Michelle is Executive Director of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, or MOMMA.

She says in states where medical marijuana is legal, parents are giving autistic children cannabis oil. She says the plant-based extract is giving many hope for the future.

"We found that it wasn't only helping with seizures and life-threatening epilepsy but with a host a myriad of special-needs conditions," she said.

For Vincent Lopez, living with muscular dystrophy means pain 24-hours a day, and he says medical marijuana is the only way to ease his agony.

"Not many of us have the option to put our condition on the shelf or act like it's not there. We have to face it, and we have to face it dead on. Head on. And it's in that reality to where cannabis can help alleviate that situation by not making it so hard. Without being zombified by prescription medications," said Lopez.

Medical marijuana advocates are excited to learn of an item on the City Council agenda. The resolution supports legislation that would provide a legal defense for Texas patients using medical marijuana and being treated by a doctor.

It also supports legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana. It's sponsored by City Council members Bill Spelman and Mike Martinez.

"We're simply asking the council to add this to our legislative priorities as a bill we would support," said Michelle.

For more than a decade State Representative Elliot Naishtat has tried to pass a state law regarding patients using medical marijuana.

"We make a little bit of progress every session," Naishtat said. He's expected to try again in the upcoming session. And Martinez hopes the City will stand behind him.

"It's an issue that is not going to go away, it's an issue that's expanding across the country and if the health benefits that come with its use benefit our community why wouldn't we be supportive?"

And Michelle says she'll be at Thursday's City Council meeting to support the resolution she feels could help her son.

"I'm a conservative christian, and I believe in miracles," Michelle said.

Even if the City Council approves the resolution, it won't change the fact that all marijuana use is illegal in Texas.

That's under both state and federal law.

KVUE spoke with some local and national organizations Tuesday about this story and were told they are not ready to comment on the issue of the City Council and medical marijuana at this time.


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana news: Police rethink seizing pot in criminal cases

DENVER — Police in some medical marijuana states who once routinely seized illegal pot plants by ripping them out by their roots and stashing them away in musty evidence rooms to die are now thinking twice about the practice.

From Colorado and Washington state to California and Hawaii, police are being sued by people who want their marijuana back after prosecutors chose not to charge them or they were acquitted.

In some cases, the one-time suspects are asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace dead plants.

Concerns over liability have prompted some agencies to either forgo rounding-up the plants altogether or to improvise by collecting a few samples and photographing the rest to use as evidence for criminal charges.

"None of us really are sure what we're supposed to do, and so you err on the side of caution," said Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The change comes as the notion of marijuana as medicine clashes with police seizure procedure that was developed in an era when pot was a scourge that needed to be wiped out.

"Law enforcement is going to have to think more carefully about what their procedures are and how those procedures might need to change in light of changes in the law," said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor.

Just as the smell of pot smoke may no longer be grounds to search a home or make an arrest, Kamin, who helped craft the state's pot regulations, said, "the same evidence that two or three years ago would have given police probable cause today doesn't."

Most local police say they are seizing less weed post-legalization, but they still investigate if they suspect patients are growing more than they should.

Federal agents face no such quandary since pot remains illegal under federal law. Whether or not state laws require, as they do in Colorado, police to return medical marijuana intact if a suspect isn't charged or is acquitted, departments have been sued over pot that has wilted in their evidence lockers.

In Colorado Springs, a cancer patient who had faced drug charges is suing police after 55 dead plants, worth an estimated $300,000, were returned to him. The state appeals court had to order the police to return them.

Medical dispensary owner Alvida Hillery sued police to return her 604 pot plants or pay $3.3 million after she was acquitted of drug-cultivation charges. She dropped the suit in exchange for a city dispensary license. By then, the plants had died.

"We need uniform rules, and law enforcement would be wise to develop those rules otherwise they will continue to be sued," said Hillery's attorney, Sean McAllister, who is representing another dispensary owner in a similar suit in federal court.

City patrol officers must now call a narcotics detective for advice if they believe they are in the presence of illegal weed.

In Hawaii, a group of medical marijuana patients who were never arrested sued in May after police seized 52 plants in a raid. They want $5,000 for each plant if they've died.

In Oregon, a narcotics task force takes only the numbers of plants necessary to bring a patient back into compliance with the law, said Washington County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Schweigert.

"Ten years ago, you had that many plants, you just went in there and ripped them all out. Now, you've got to ask a few questions," said Sgt. David Oswalt, who supervises the Grand Junction police evidence room.

Oswalt's department tells officers who believe the questionable weed is legal for medical purposes to take clippings and leave the plants behind. If not, they can seize plants by the bundle.

Leaving plants behind carries obvious risks, said Jim Gerhardt of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association.

"It would be like arresting a cocaine dealer and taking a minuscule amount of the cocaine as a sample and then leaving it there for them to be used or sold," he said. "It's a complicated, messy issue."

Washington state does not require police to return plants to acquitted patients. The state's medical marijuana law allows gardens of 45 plants or less, though it doesn't expressly prohibit having multiple gardens on a single property.

Seattle police destroy marijuana plants after seizing them, documenting the hauls with photographs or samples that can be presented at trial if necessary, said Officer Renee Witt, a department spokeswoman.

This month, they seized more than 2,200 marijuana plants, but arrested no one, in a raid of a purported medical marijuana operation where neighbors complained about the smell.

"My God, we would run out of space if we had to preserve it, water it, light it," Witt said. Police in Lynnwood, Washington, no longer seize medical plants, said Angelea Madsen, who supervises the evidence unit.

Officials last year returned 202 dead plants seized from a group of medical marijuana patients who were never charged with crimes. They demanded police return the weed and growing equipment or pay nearly $1 million, the estimated value.

John Jackson, the police chief in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and a vice president of the state's association of police chiefs, said state lawmakers must enact guidelines on marijuana seizures to protect law enforcement from civil and criminal liability.

"There's no property room in the world that's going to turn into a hydroponic growing operation," Jackson said.


Jul 25, 2008
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Study: Genes linked to schizophrenia may drive marijuana use (not vice versa)

Attempts to prove that marijuana will make you crazy have a long and undignified history in the debate over legalization and cannabis use. You seem crazy when you smoke marijuana, anti-potters decided, so it must make you crazy in a clinical way, such as (most notably and scariest) schizophrenia.

Scientists on some level seem to have bought into the colloquial connection and with federal money have looked and looked and looked for connections between the two and there does seem to be some connection … but it’s not a clear-cut cause-and-effect connection.

Some people with psychosis either have or do use marijuana. Some research has found changes in the brain in people who have used marijuana and are crazy or have just used marijuana … but it’s unclear if the changes were caused by the use or were there before and caused the marijuana use. (See gallery above for studies)

Related stories: Harvard study: Marijuana not linked to schizophrenia,
What is the risk of becoming schizophrenic if you smoke marijuana?

The latest study to poke holes in the blown-up fear of marijuana causing psychosis comes from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

The study shows that a gene related to schizophrenia may lead people to want to smoke marijuana. Note that this is exactly the kind of flip of a “common understanding” that comes out of correlation studies:

Did the marijuana use cause the trouble?
Did something else cause the trouble and marijuana use just happened to be there?
Did something cause both?

This research seems to show that something caused both.

“We know that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia. Our study certainly does not rule this out, but it suggests that there is likely to be an association in the other direction as well – that a pre-disposition to schizophrenia also increases your likelihood of cannabis use,” Robert Power, who led the study, told Reuters.

The researchers’ official conclusions state it this way:

Although considerable evidence implicates cannabis use as a component cause of schizophrenia, it remains unclear whether this is entirely due to cannabis directly raising risk of psychosis, or whether the same genes that increases psychosis risk may also increase risk of cannabis use. …

Although directly predicting only a small amount of the variance in cannabis use, these findings suggest that part of the association between schizophrenia and cannabis is due to a shared genetic aetiology.

No one is saying marijuana isn’t a drug or that it’s always safe — but it’s getting clearer every day that it won’t make you crazy (or not forever).

The Reuters’ story concludes:

Power said the result “highlights the complex interactions between genes and environments” when it comes to cannabis as a risk factor for schizophrenia.

“Certain environmental risks, such as cannabis use, may be more likely given an individual’s innate behavior and personality, itself influenced by their genetic make-up,” he said, adding that this finding was important to consider when calculating the economic and health impact of cannabis.

Hey, it’s science!


Jul 25, 2008
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West Hartford Republicans Lose Fight To Ban Medical Marijuana

WEST HARTFORD — Town council Republicans could not persuade the majority Democrats to ban medical marijuana during a marathon meeting that ran into the early morning hours Wednesday.

Instead, Democrats amended an ordinance that had put a moratorium on medical marijuana to allow a production facility or dispensary to be located in a specific industrial zone in the Elmwood section of town.

The amended ordinance, drafted by council Democrat Leon Davidoff, passed 6-3 along party lines and provides for a 200-foot buffer zone between schools, parks, residential areas and places of worship.

The council imposed the moratorium in October to see how other towns responded to the state's legalization of marijuana use by the seriously ill. While Republicans said repeatedly that they were sympathetic to the ill, they objected to medical marijuana being sold or produced in town.

Republican council member Denise Hall claimed that marijuana is a gateway to heroin use and said West Hartford shouldn't welcome, "a facility that houses drugs and cash," because it would tempt robbers.

Republicans Chris Barnes and Burke Doar said they supported a ban because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

But council Democrat Harry Captain said that the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo saying they will not prosecute marijuana patients or providers in states where medical marijuana it is legal, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has approved a similar measure which is headed to the Senate.

Corporation Counsel Joseph O'Brien also advised that the state could potentially litigate a ban because there's "no bright line" in medical marijuana regulations, such as there is regarding liquor.

Shelton became the first town to ban medical marijuana earlier this month, and Hall said West Hartford should follow suit.

Mayor Scott Slifka said he was "disappointed" in Republicans' repeated attempts to frame medical marijuana as a moral issue, and took offense at the implication that Democrats are endorsing illegal drug use.

"That really makes me mad," Slifka said, adding that the state has already settled the issue of medical marijuana's legality, and "we have to deal with that reality."

While residents were not permitted to speak to the measure Wednesday, a small number of people spoke against medical marijuana at an earlier meeting.

Republicans acknowledged alerting residents to the issue, a move that Democrats called unusual. Democrats said the fact that only a handful of people felt strongly enough to speak out was telling.

Slifka also said that many medical marijuana patients are fearful of speaking publicly because of social stigma, and Captain pointed to a recently Quinnipiac University poll that reported 90 percent of Connecticut residents approved of medical marijuana use.

"I believe there's more validity in the Q-poll than in 10 people who showed up who were possibly influenced by council members," Captain said.


Jul 25, 2008
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Washington Prepares for Marijuana Retail Sales

As Washington state prepares to issue the first licenses for marijuana retail stores, Gov. Jay Inslee and other state leaders on Tuesday announced a coordinated campaign to make sure pot stays out of the hands of minors once products start hitting store shelves next month.

"Those who have led the effort to legalize this product understand that we've got to make sure that parents' roles are respected and emphasized and that the health of our children is of our paramount concern," Inslee said. Different state agencies are working together "to make sure the public has the information they need to make healthy decisions and the tools that they need to keep our kids safe," he said.

The Liquor Control Board will issue about 20 retail licenses on July 7, and the stores that are ready can open the next day. More stores will get licensed in the following days.

During Tuesday's news conference, officials with the state Liquor Control Board, which has been overseeing the implementation of the state's recreational marijuana law, said that they are poised to adopt emergency rules Wednesday to do three things concerning edible marijuana: require all marijuana-infused products to be labeled clearly as containing marijuana; require all products to be scored in such a way that a serving size is easily identified by the consumer; and requiring marijuana-infused products to be approved by the board before sale.

Previously adopted rules already require marijuana-infused products to be stored behind a counter or other barrier, and to be child-resistant. Officials stressed that no product will approved if it has a label that is appealing to kids.

"We're just not going to let toys or cartoon figures be used on our labels," said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the state liquor control board.

Foster noted that officials are also worried about adult consumers who may not realize the impact of varying products. "The marijuana today is not the marijuana of the 60s," she said.

Edibles won't be available right away once stores open because a commercial kitchen is required, and, so far, no processors with commercial kitchens have been licensed.

The state has launched a $400,000 statewide radio and online campaign by the Department of Health this week that urges parents to talk with their children about the health risks of using marijuana. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission also launched a "Drive High, Get a DUI" campaign.

"We are not going to allow this effort of legalization to increase the risks of our family members on the roadways," Inslee said.

State Patrol Chief John Batiste said that troopers have been trained to recognize signs of stoned driving.

"We've been dealing with this for a long time," he said. "We just simply ask that with access, that people are responsible."

At the end of 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize possession of recreational marijuana by adults 21 and older. The voters also called for the establishment of systems of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores.

Sales have already begun in Colorado.


Jul 25, 2008
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Cannabis industry kicks off first business summit

The tagline for this week's Cannabis Business Summit in Denver is, "Where Commerce Meets a Revolution."

And in speaking with some of the several hundred people in attendance at the two-day event, billed as the marijuana industry's first big business conference, there was a sense of mission that isn't usually found at most trade fairs.

Keynote speakers received applause when they talked about being in a state where cannabis is legal both for medical and recreational use and the importance of running businesses that their industry can be proud of.

"This industry is being born, you can't stop it," said John Davis, an industry activist and CEO of the Northwest Patient Resource Center in Seattle.

But Davis acknowledges marijuana businesses remain hobbled by their inability to access banks and other financial institutions. At least 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington State legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults on January 1. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, however, and most banks stay away from transactions with cannabis-related companies in fear of federal prosecution.

Davis says that, if you look at the marijuana industry's opponents, "that's their line in the sand... they don't want us to have the legitimacy of the banks. And whenever you have issues with banking, you're going to have issues with investment."

Still, a common theme at the summit is that the push for national acceptance of cannabis appears to have taken on a new momentum. That's especially the case among state lawmakers looking for new revenue streams and who have been closely monitoring the revenues Colorado has brought in during the first months of its experiment with recreational, adult-use marijuana.

That's not to say everyone is expected to benefit from the "green rush" the cannabis industry's been experiencing. State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Wash., says officials in his state are predicting a 50 percent failure rate for local marijuana companies there.

"These businesses are highly speculative and risky," he said. "A number of the license holders don't really know what they're doing, but they have a lot of money. And they might be hiring consultants to do the work for them and it might not work out."

"On the other hand." he added, "we have applicants or license holders who know everything about [marijuana], but don't know how to run a business. And so the risks are on both sides."

Those risks aren't discouraging people from investigating what they see as marijuana's future in other states.

"I am very impressed with the organization, with the number of attendees, with the subject matters that are discussed," said Whitley Smith of Austin, Texas, who was checking out the Denver conference for his brother, who runs a smoke shop/book store/juice bar in Oklahoma. "With the obvious implications for the future, we are sitting on the edge of a new paradigm, and I'm very impressed."


Jul 25, 2008
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(Massachusetts) The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis Is Opening in Natick

The term “higher education” is taking on a whole new meaning in Massachusetts.

Starting in September, the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis will be opening its doors and offering classes on cannabis history, patient services, medical marijuana state law, cultivation, activism, and the science of strains. “The courses are vast,” said Cara Crabb-Burnham, the school’s administrator. “It will be everything you need to know about marijuana in Massachusetts and New England.”

Northeastern Institute of Cannabis employees have been working hard on their curriculum for the last seven months, and are rounding up staff to teach their range of classes come this fall. Crabb-Burnham said people would likely be able to start signing up for various courses, which will be held on the nights and weekends, starting at the end of the summer. “You can go to one course, or you can go for the whole shebang,” she said.

The school will start off with the basic “101′s” and have a strong focus on cannabis education and job training for growers, dispensary staff, businesses, patients, caregivers and stakeholders, making the industry easy for everyone to understand, according to their mission statement. Students that complete 12 classes will be “certified” by the school, which Crabb-Burnham said will help with possible job placement or give them a better understanding about rules and regulations.

“The school will certify students so that they will have basic and advanced knowledge of the industry,” said Crabb-Burnham, adding that the certification will make it easier for dispensary owners to find qualified employees when opening up shops. “Eventually we will have more advanced courses like cannabis breeding, legal training, and how to run a non-profit organization.”

As the school grows, said Crabb-Burnham, the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis will expand on their course offerings, and adjust them based on how the laws in Massachusetts are written.

Recently, a marijuana advocacy group started a ballot campaign initiative to get a question about legalizing the drug statewide in front of voters in 2016. Under current state law, medical marijuana is legal for patient use, and officials are working out the details in regards to allowing dispensaries to open up shop and serve people with debilitating illnesses who rely on the drug to cope.

While the school won’t have marijuana on site, and students won’t be handling the drug during their time in class, the Institute is in the midst of bringing in educators who will teach courses. They are sifting through a vast pool of experts versed on the subject from around the state. Crabb-Burnham said they are currently talking with a local professor involved in the cannabis world who hopefully will become the school’s chancellor. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul that have been going into making this a functional and working idea,” she said.

She said the town of Natick, where the school will have headquarters, has been supportive of them opening up. Boston called Natick’s Town Administrator, who acknowledged that the Institute was getting ready to offer classes, and said there have been no issues with the educational venture thus far.

In April, Natick voted during Town Meeting to limit where dispensaries can open to a certain section of the town. Natick is also already home to the state’s first company specializing in technology for medical marijuana dispensaries, according to reports.

The only problem the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis has faced is securing the occupational training licensing from the state, but they predict they will have that by July, and be ready to certify students as entry-level industry professionals. Students will be able to finish an entire course load in three weeks, according to the school.

Crabb-Burnham is confident everything will work out in the school’s favor, calling Massachusetts a great place for a service like this. “We picked Massachusetts over places like California because California is saturated. They have all types of schools. But what we are doing here is a little different,” she said. “We have a great community here, and having this is a great chance to give us a space and do awesome things and just grow and help establish a market.”


Jul 25, 2008
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UK Edging Closer To Legalisation Of Cannabis As British Medical Association Debates 'Health Issue'

Cannabis use should be treated as a health issue and not a criminal act, leading doctors will hear.

Delegates at the British Medical Association's annual representative meeting in Harrogate are to debate whether cannabis should be legalised.

A motion has been tabled calling on the doctors' union to promote the legalisation of the drug.

Geoffrey Lewis, a retired consultant from Leicester, will present the motion saying: "Too often the focus on drug use and addiction is from a criminal justice rather than a public health point of view.

"Doctors see first hand the damaging effects of a system which seeks to criminalise drug users rather than a treat their addiction.

"Existing drug policy is contradictory and ineffective. The number of drug users has sky rocketed in the last 30 years despite the introduction of tougher and tougher drug laws. Our policy makers aren't prepared to have a sensible, rational, evidence-based debate on drugs.

"That's not to say that cannabis use isn't dangerous. It is. But the current law isn't working and only by adopting a different approach can we regulate, educate and exert a level of quality control.

"Cannabis use should be treated primarily as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Public health shouldn't suffer because politicians are too frightened to have an honest debate and doctors shouldn't shy away from doing what we can to keep this important issue on the agenda."

Other motions to be debated at the meeting include a call for a "forever" ban on cigarette sales to anyone born after the year 2000, and a proposed ban on the use of e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is banned.

On Monday it was reported that the number of children receiving treatment for addiction to cannabis has hit a record high, with one expert warning the age they try the drug for the first time has fallen which places them at greater risk.

A total of 13,581 children received medical treatment for drug addiction and cited cannabis as their "main problem drug", which is an increase of nearly 50% in seven years, the latest statistics show.

That number represents 68% of all those under 18 who received medical treatment for substance misuse in England in 2012/13.

The increase in the numbers being treated for cannabis is in contrast to a fall in the number being treated for alcoholism, which fell by 29% in a year to 4,704.

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst with the charity Transform told The Huffington Post UK that, despite falling levels of cannabis use overall, the age at which children were first trying it has fallen, which puts them at a greater risk.


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May 25, 2014
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