MJ News for 06/30/2014

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Jul 25, 2008
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Medical marijuana in Oregon: Dispensary owners meet with state officials to air complaints, ask questions

For years, the medical marijuana industry in Oregon flourished unchecked, making up its own rules and counting on the tolerance of neighbors and law enforcement to survive.

But now the industry has the state to deal with.

More than 100 medical marijuana dispensary representatives gathered in downtown Portland Saturday to complain, question and comment on the new law governing retail sales of medical cannabis. For more than two hours, dispensary owners, their employees and marijuana growers peppered Tom Burns, the dispensary program director, with detailed questions about how to meet the state's 31 pages of rules, which spell out everything from security requirements to product packaging and lab testing.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the state agency responsible for overseeing the production and sale of recreational cannabis if voters approve marijuana legalization this fall, is closely watching the rollout of the dispensary program.

Oregon officials view the medical marijuana dispensary program as a potential framework for state-regulated recreational marijuana.

The Oregon Legislature last year passed a law directing the state health authority to create a registry of medical marijuana facilities and draft rules to govern the way they operate. Since March, the state has licensed 138 establishments

State regulators have made unannounced visits to about two dozen of them, closing one in Portland, where flagrant violations were so "egregious," said Burns, that the establishment was immediately shuttered.

"You've got consumption on premises, you have unlocked doors, you have people wandering in without (medical marijuana) cards and you are dispensing to them; that is a major violation and we will revoke" the license to operate, he said.

"We don't want to be looked at as the Gestapo coming in to close you down," he said. "We want you to be successful and to meet the letter and the rule of the law."

Erin Kennedy, one of state's three medical marijuana dispensary inspectors, walked the gathering through an inspection checklist: Does the shop's video surveillance record 30 days of activity? Are products properly labeled and packaged? Does the dispensary ensure each customer has a valid Oregon medical marijuana card?

Regulators also audit marijuana in the shop to make sure employees can account for everything that's come in and out. Their chief concern is ensuring marijuana isn't leaving the store and leaking into the black market.

"If you brought in 100 of these and you say you sold 50, there better be 50 of these in the box," said Burns, holding up a marijuana-infused candy someone brought to the event. "If there isn't, then they are going some place else."

Though the state spent months drafting rules for the program, it was clear from Saturday's forum that many issues remain unclear or weren't anticipated.

Some questions raised by dispensary owners included: Can a medical marijuana dispensary continue to operate if a school opens next door? (No.) Can a dispensary sell medical marijuana in a container that's not childproofed if the consumer is elderly, has arthritis and isn't around children? (No.) Does the dispensary have to have its supply of medical marijuana lab tested or does that responsibility fall to the grower? (The dispensary.)

And there were more: Can a dispensary give away marijuana-infused cookies donated by a grower or patient? (No.) Can dispensary staff sell marijuana to a patient who has been approved for a state-issued medical marijuana card but has not received it yet? (No.) Can a dispensary sell marijuana seeds to a grower? (No.)

Burns acknowledged he couldn't answer every question, like what should a dispensary do with cannabis that turns up positive for pesticides and mold. Return it to the grower, Burns said. But, asked one business representative, what if the dispensary can't track down the grower?

Burns, a genial bureaucrat quick to acknowledge his lack of familiarity with marijuana, its use and culture, expressed surprise. In that case, he wasn't sure what to do.

"There really are growers who just fall off the face of the earth?" he asked, as some in the crowded nodded.

Burns said the forum underscored the novelty of regulating medical marijuana in Oregon.

"The system didn't exist 11 months ago," said Burns. "We put something together that worked. You guys are operating. We are doing inspections. We are providing safe medicine to the patients.

"Is it perfect? Absolutely not. There are a whole lot of holes and you guys have identified a lot of them today."

The forum gave industry representatives a chance to hear concerns from other dispensary owners, said Jake Boone, a manager at Apothecaria in Cottage Grove, where Boone also sits on the city council. It helps the industry to speak with a unified voice about the issues that matter most to dispensary operators, said Boone, who has never tried marijuana but is a longtime supporter of its legalization.

"It's been fascinating watching an industry invent itself," he said.

Bill Clinton: States should experiment with marijuana legalization

Former President Bill Clinton, who once famously said he smoked marijuana but "didn't inhale," says he thinks legalization should be for the states to decide — not the federal government.

"Look, I think there's a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing," Clinton said in an interview with NBC's David Gregory broadcast on Sunday's "Meet the Press."

"I think there are a lot of unresolved questions," Clinton continued. "This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There's pot and there's pot; what's in it? What's going to happen? There are all these questions."

States like Colorado — which in January was the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana — should be allowed to experiment with marijuana laws, he said.

"I think we should leave it to the states," Clinton said. "If the state wants to try it, they can. And then they'll be able to see what happens."

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton was questioned about her views on legalization.

“On recreational, states are the laboratories of democracy,” the former secretary of state said during a CNN “Town Hall” event. “I want to wait and see what the evidence is.”

On medical marijuana, Clinton said more evidence is needed to prove it works.

“At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes," she said. “I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances. But I do think we need more research, because we don't know how it interacts with other drugs."

In 1992, Bill Clinton, then a Democratic candidate for president, commented on his own use of pot during a campaign forum in New York.

"When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two and didn’t like it,” Clinton said of his time as a student at Oxford in the late 1960s. “I didn’t inhale, and I didn’t try it again.”"

Late last year, Clinton was asked about this remark, which was widely ridiculed.

"I didn’t say I was holier than thou. I said I tried. I never denied that I used marijuana,” Clinton said. “I told the truth. I thought it was funny. And the only journalist who was there said I told the truth.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama made headlines in an interview in which he called marijuana a "bad habit" and "a vice" but said it was no more dangerous than alcohol.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," Obama told the New Yorker's David Remnick. "I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president said he believed that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer."

"It’s not something I encourage," Obama continued, "and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”

Lawmakers in 11 states approve low-THC medical marijuana bills

Spurred by the stories of epileptic children being treated in Colorado with cannabis oil, lawmakers across the country this year have made a dramatic change in how they talk about marijuana.

Thus far, nine states have passed laws legalizing either the use of non-psychoactive marijuana extracts for medical treatment or the study of such products. The slate of states — Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — reads in part like a list of states previously most resistant to changes in marijuana laws.

In another two states, Missouri and North Carolina, the legislatures have passed bills that need only a signature from the states' respective governor.

Advocates both for and against changes to marijuana policies continue to debate whether the laws will have any practical impact. But the new laws represent an ongoing rebellion of states from the federal government's current position that marijuana has no accepted medical use.

"I think it validates this as medicine," said Paige Figi, one of the founders of the Realm of Caring, which gained fame in a pair of CNN documentaries for producing non-psychoactive marijuana oil.

Figi's daughter, Charlotte, suffers from severe epilepsy, but she has received relief by using an extract made from marijuana plants that is high in a chemical called CBD and low in the psychoactive component of marijuana, THC. The most famous variety of marijuana from which the oil is made, Charlotte's Web, is named after Charlotte Figi.

"It's very important, these little baby steps with CBD bills," said Paige Figi, who has testified in support of several of the bills.

Research in works

Conclusive research on the efficacy of CBD to treat epilepsy or other conditions is still in the works, but its potential has generated tremendous interest among parents whose children's seizures are not controlled by current medicines. Hundreds of families have moved to Colorado for the oil, which is currently available only through the state's medical marijuana system.

While all of the new laws across the country embrace the possible therapeutic use of CBD, they vary widely in the details. Laws in Florida and the pending bill in Missouri would allow CBD-rich marijuana to be grown in those states. Others legalize possession of CBD but don't specify a source. Some require universities to produce or supply CBD, while others — such as Alabama's — allow only research programs.

Those limitations mean traditional marijuana reformists have kept the laws at arm's length, worried about forestalling bigger changes while simultaneously supporting the sentiment behind the laws.

"The bills are so limited and drafted in a way as to likely be practically and legally impossible to implement and therefore will be symbolic only," Tamar Todd, a senior staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote in an e-mail.

Figi, who said she supports broader medical marijuana legalization, said the laws could be a "stepping- stone" to laws that would allow treatment for more conditions.

Controlled trials

Those opposed to medical marijuana legalization have likewise approached the bills with ambivalence. Kevin Sabet, who works with the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said no one wants to keep parents from accessing treatment that may help their children. But, he said, the new laws may offer false hope to patients and said the safer solution is for federal regulators to allow more controlled trials of marijuana-derived pharmaceuticals.

One such trial has about 300 patients across the country. A preliminary study of a handful of those patients suggested a CBD medicine could be effective in treating seizures — similar to other surveys that have found many, but not all, patients using CBD-rich marijuana like Charlotte's Web have seen a benefit.

"Simply saying we can solve the issue by passing legislation allowing one to go to Colorado, buy CBD from who knows where, and come back to your home state is not a sustainable solution," Sabet wrote in an e-mail.

Federal officials appear to have taken notice of the new debates about marijuana as medicine. In addition to authorizing the trial, the Food and Drug Administration has recently begun the first step in evaluating whether marijuana should be placed in a less-restrictive category of drugs, an FDA official told members of a congressional committee this month.

Marijuana is currently a Schedule I substance, meaning it is not considered to have any medical use and research on it is difficult.

Figi said the need for high-CBD treatment is urgent, citing the more than 9,000 names on a wait list for Charlotte's Web. The Realm of Caring plans to produce more oil this year under the Colorado Department of Agriculture's hemp program. That's possible because the program defines hemp — the taxonomic twin of marijuana — only as low in THC.

Because hemp has fewer restrictions than marijuana, Figi said the Realm of Caring might be able to send Charlotte's Web oil to patients in states with CBD laws, greatly reducing the wait list.

"We do believe it will be shippable," she said.

Marijuana shortages could have Washington stores, customers wondering: Where's the weed?

SEATTLE — Randy Oliver has a pressing question as legal marijuana sales are about to begin in Washington state: Where's all the weed?

Oliver is the chief scientist at Analytical 360 in Yakima, the only lab that has been certified to test the heavily taxed marijuana that will wind up on store shelves next month. So far, just two licensed growers have turned in samples for testing, with another due to turn in a small batch next week, he told The Associated Press on Saturday.

"There's such a small stream of samples coming through," he said. "There's going to be some long lines and some high prices."

The state's Liquor Control Board has been warning of shortages when the first stores open. The board plans to issue the first 15 to 20 retail licenses July 7, with shops allowed to open the next day if they're ready. It's not clear how many that will be. Board staff said at a meeting last week that only one store in Seattle is ready for its final inspection.

Only 79 of the more than 2,600 people who applied for marijuana growing licenses last fall have been approved, and many of them aren't ready to harvest.

"Will there be shortages?" Randy Simmons, the board's legal-pot project manager, said in a recent AP interview. "The answer to that is yes."

However, the figures provided by Oliver on Saturday suggest just how serious those shortages could be. The samples provided to Analytical 360 represent a maximum harvest so far of 190 pounds — and Oliver said he expects 20 to 30 percent of the samples to fail because of high mold counts. Marijuana associated with those samples can't be sold as dried bud, but can be used to make cannabis oil.

The amount harvested so far "isn't going to stay on the shelves very long," Oliver said.

Oliver said he's worried that his lab could see a crush of samples provided in the days before the first stores open, swamping his lab and delaying the arrival of product on store shelves.

"We can probably handle 100 samples a day, but if we get 300 samples thrown at us?" he said. "I'm worried about everybody coming to us at the last minute."

Growers have to provide samples for every strain of cannabis they grow, and for every five pounds of flowers they harvest.

Oliver also said glitches with the software the state is using to track the bar-coded marijuana from clone to sale could compound the issue. He said his lab has had trouble entering test results in the program, and some marijuana that passed has shown up as having failed. It took one grower five days to provide the samples to the lab because of software problems, he said, characterizing the bugs as nothing unusual for a new program.
It isn't clear how soon other labs might be certified or be ready to handle samples. Seattle's Sea of Green Farms is one of the two growers who have had their pot tested. Bob Leeds, a partner there, confirmed that as of Saturday, the only certified lab that shows up in the tracking system is Analytical 360.

The other grower tested is Spokane's Kouchlock Productions. Kouchlock and Sea of Green were among the very first growers licensed back in March.

Spokesmen for the liquor board did not immediately return a call or emails on Saturday.

The Sea of Green team was spending the weekend packaging the approximately 40 pounds of marijuana it harvested recently, Leeds said. It has contracts with four shops to sell most of it already — for an exorbitant $4,000 a pound. That's nearly $9 per gram before the retailer's mark-up, 25 percent retail excise tax, and state and local sales taxes. At the state's unlicensed medical dispensaries, cannabis often sells for $8 to $12 per gram.

"When people start calling we have to tell them we're not going to have anything for them until August," Leeds said. "That's a long way off when you're trying to open a business."

Mass. cracking down on medical marijuana caregivers

Massachusetts health officials cracked down this week on a booming cottage industry of self-described caregivers who have been selling marijuana to meet the demand created by the state’s 18-month-old medical marijuana law.

The state sent letters to more than 1,300 patients, plus 17 caregivers, warning them that state regulations prohibit any caregiver from selling marijuana to more than one patient, according to David Kibbe, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health.

The caregivers, many of whom advertise on the Internet, are the only legal avenue for people to buy marijuana until storefront dispensaries start to open — probably November at the earliest — and the regulators’ action angered people who rely on the drug to relieve symptoms.

“I have been put in a terrible situation,” said David Tamarin, a 41-year-old North Andover lawyer who has been certified by a doctor to take medical marijuana for chronic back pain and anxiety.

Tamarin said he was outraged by the letter advising him that he had to find another caregiver, one who was not serving any other patients.

“The legalization of medical marijuana should make it easier, not more difficult, for a patient to get his medicine,” he said.

Tamarin’s caregiver, William Downing, a longtime activist for legalizing marijuana, owns Reading-based Yankee Care Givers, which he estimated delivers cannabis products to 1,000 patients. He said he received a letter warning him to “cease and desist” operating as a caregiver to more than one patient.

Many of Downing’s patients also received letters from Karen van Unen , executive director of the health department’s medical marijuana program, saying, “Until dispensaries become operational, you may choose a new personal caregiver, or determine that you no longer require the services of a personal caregiver at this time.”

The letters said that the caregivers, not the patients, were violating the law.

The rules allow patients with doctor-provided certificates to grow marijuana or have a caregiver cultivate it or obtain it for them — up to 10 ounces for a 60-day supply. Caregivers are limited to supplying one patient at a time, but caregivers, patients, and even some police officials say the rules are unclear and open to interpretation.

Scott Murphy, a 31-year-old Iraq veteran who uses marijuana to ease the pain of his degenerative arthritis, wrote a letter to state health officials after learning of the crackdown, saying he believed they were misinterpreting the medical marijuana law.

“They so easily say you can just find another caregiver or not use one at all,” said Murphy, president of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care, a group that advocates for veterans’ health issues. “It does not seem like a patient-centered approach. It is not that easy to grow your own, and that takes three or four months. This is not fair.”

Downing said during a telephone interview that he will immediately stop selling marijuana, but he is asking patients to join a lawsuit that he is contemplating against the state that will challenge its claim that he is breaking the law.

“The one-patient-per-caregiver regulation is illegal. . . . It’s causing great harm,” said Downing, adding that qualifying patients currently have limited access to medical marijuana because the state has failed to license any dispensaries since voters approved marijuana for medicinal use in November 2012.

The licensing process is behind schedule. Dispensaries were expected to open this summer, but the state didn’t award provisional certificates to companies until Friday, and it will take months for them to get set up, undergo inspections, and grow their first crops.

“DPH is more concerned with their regulations than they are with the well-being of the citizens of Massachusetts,” Downing said.

He said the department is aware of his business because since last year, he has been submitting a form signed by each of his patients designating him as their caregiver.

He said the one-patient limit per caregiver does not apply to him because state regulations say personal care attendants are exempt from that rule and his business is defined as a personal services company.

Regulators identified the caregivers and patients from letters they sent to the health department to register with the state, Kibbe said.

The letters are voluntary now, but notification will be required when the health department sets up a planned online system for tracking certified marijuana patients and their suppliers.

Marijuana Legalization May Open Door To “Big Cannabis”

LOS ANGELES — In 1978, two market forecasters with the Brown & Williamson tobacco company wrote a report in which they imagined what might happen if marijuana was legalized.

While legalization would cause “a period of difficult reappraisal in tobacco company strategy,” they wrote, “marijuana products seem to be a logical new industry for tobacco companies.” There could be a drop in demand for tobacco immediately following legalization, but once the “novelty effect” of marijuana had worn off, “tobacco consumption again rises to near pre-legalized marijuana levels.”

And, the forecasters continued, “Two marijuana-containing products are highly probable: a straight marijuana cigarette and a marijuana-tobacco blend.”

At the time, any scenario of marijuana legalization might have seemed pie in the sky. In 1971, President Richard Nixon had declared a “war on drugs” and, in a 1972 document, tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds predicted only a 15 percent probability of legalization by 1980.

But now, 36 years after the B&W report, the medical use of marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, while two states — Colorado and Washington — allow the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use by persons 21 and older.

According to a new study by public health researchers, those legislative moves may have paved the way for Big Tobacco to diversify into Big Cannabis.

“Legalizing marijuana opens the market to major corporations, including tobacco companies, which have the financial resources, product design technology to optimize puff-by-puff delivery of a psychoactive drug (nicotine), marketing muscle, and political clout to transform the marijuana market,” the study, titled “Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legalization,” says.

Authors Rachel Ann Barry and Stanton A. Glantz of the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and Heikki Hiilamo of the University of Helsinki, Finland, say the B&W report and other internal tobacco industry documents show that since at least 1970, three multinational companies — Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (the former parent of B&W), and R.J. Reynolds — have considered manufacturing cigarettes containing cannabis.

The study was published earlier this month in the Milbank Quarterly, a health policy journal.

“In the current favorable political climate for marijuana decriminalization, policymakers and public health authorities should develop and implement policies that would prevent the tobacco industry … from becoming directly involved in the burgeoning marijuana market, in a way that would replicate the smoking epidemic, which kills 480,000 Americans each year,” the authors recommend.

Tobacco companies have responded to the study by denying any interest in the marijuana market. “Our companies have no plans to sell marijuana-based products,” a spokesman for Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris, told the Los Angeles Times. “We don’t do anything related to marijuana at all.”

But Barry notes that the companies have made similar denials in the past.

“There is a risk that the tobacco industry, with its history of manipulating consumers’ consent and regulatory frameworks, will take over the retail marijuana market,” she told MintPress News.

Possible product

The B&W market forecast is part of UCSF’s massive Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an archive of more than 80 million pages of documents that became available as a result of litigation against the tobacco industry.

The archive provides far from a complete record of the industry’s discussions about marijuana. “Because marijuana was not a focus of [the tobacco] litigation, there may be more information from the tobacco companies on this question that was not made available through the LTDL,” the Milbank Quarterly study says.

“We also found several documents that were attorney-client privileged and so were not available to us,” Barry said.

The study suggests that the marijuana market has an obvious attraction for Big Tobacco, since both marijuana and tobacco are smoked, can be consumed using a vaporizer, and may be ingested orally. Earlier this year, Altria acquired e-cigarette company Green Smoke and, the study says, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws has been helping tobacco and e-cigarette companies in opposing efforts to include e-cigarettes in clean indoor air laws.

“The association of marijuana and tobacco use has direct implications for the tobacco industry as marijuana becomes more accessible,” the researchers said.

The earliest documents quoted in the study date back to 1969, when Philip Morris asked the U.S. Department of Justice to secretly secure marijuana from the government for marijuana research. The company envisioned analyzing the smoke from marijuana in the same way it had analyzed smoke from tobacco.

The collaboration with the government, Philip Morris’ then-president wrote, would allow the company to explore “potential competition” and “a possible product.”

“[W]e regard it as an opportunity to learn something about this controversial product, whose usage has been increasing so rapidly among the young people,” another Philip Morris official said in an unsigned memo in 1970.

What became of that project is unknown — no files have been found in the National Archives. But around the same time, Philip Morris’ competitors were also eyeing the possibilities of marijuana, with the head science advisor of British American Tobacco writing that marijuana-laced cigarettes would be a “natural expansion of current smoking habits, which, if a more tolerant attitude were ever taken to cannabis, would be a change in habit comparable to moving over to cigars.”

If marijuana was legalized, an unsigned British American Tobacco memo from 1976 said, “one avenue for exploitation would be the augmentation of cigarettes with near sub-liminal [sic] levels of the drug.”

R. J. Reynolds, meanwhile, conducted marijuana research as recently as 1992, when the company decided to compare the basic properties of nicotine and the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. The company “should know more about cannabinol in view of the possibility of its future more frequent use in certain European countries,” an executive explained in a memo.

Mom-and-pop operators

Legal marijuana is now a big business. This year, it is expected to generate as much as $2.6 billion in revenue, mostly in California, and it is forecast to grow into an $8 billion industry by 2018.

But with the drug still illegal under federal law, the typical marijuana producer is a mom-and-pop operator. “Not a single cannabis-related company is bigger than $100 million, not even close,” Troy Dayton, CEO of cannabis venture capital firm The Arcview Group, told the AlterNet website. “Show me another industry of this size that doesn’t have such a player.”

One new company, Cranford’s Cigarettes, is selling all-marijuana cigarettes for $50 to $60 a pack in stores around Colorado. “With federal law, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco can’t step into the game right now,” Chief Operating Officer Chris Connors told AlterNet. “That’s why we got in.”

Colorado’s legalization law was passed in 2012 in part because of the efforts of groups like the Marijuana Policy Project. Spokesman Morgan Fox is sanguine about any threat that Big Tobacco might pose to the marijuana market.

“It’s hard to tell what the intentions of the tobacco companies would be if they were to enter the marijuana market,” he told MintPress. “But the fact that they do not have the same level of experience in the industry as those who have been involved in it for years suggests that they may have trouble gaining a significant market share.”

The tobacco industry’s marketing muscle might be hamstrung, Fox suggested, because states where marijuana is legal have imposed strict regulations on advertising and the addition of addictive chemicals to marijuana products. “Colorado specifically bans additives, tobacco/marijuana mixtures, and alcoholic marijuana products,” he noted.

A large number of marijuana consumers are also hostile toward tobacco companies, Fox said. Any concern, he added, about “what will happen to the marijuana industry if the tobacco industry enters the market is akin to worrying about the safety of the health food industry if McDonald’s started offering an organic menu.”

But the authors of the Milbank Quarterly paper say advocates of marijuana legalization should consider “the potential effects of the multinational tobacco companies entering the market … with their substantial marketing power and capacity to engineer marijuana cigarettes to maximize efficacy as drug delivery systems.”

The initial moves toward legalization, they note, have removed “some of the public relations and legal hurdles that have, so far, kept major corporations — including tobacco companies — out of the market.”

And even if Big Tobacco stays out of the market, UCSF’s Barry predicts that the days of “Micro-Marijuana” are numbered.

“[There] will be some other large corporate entity with the economic muscle and marketing power to dramatically change the retail marijuana market,” she said.

Cannabis Cup a hit at fairgrounds in Santa Rosa

Jared Combs peered through thick clouds of marijuana smoke Sunday afternoon, searching for a cure for the munchies.

He saw hash brownies, pot-laced cookies and an array of smile-inducing doughnuts. But the thing that caught his eye as temperatures in Santa Rosa rose beyond 90 degrees was cannabis ice cream.

Combs grabbed a cup of mint chip, infused with just enough of the drug to get you high.

“Oh, this is amazing,” said the Redding resident as he swallowed a free sample from San Francisco-based Cannabis Creamery. “When they start selling it at Safeway, I'm buying stock in it.”

Combs was among an estimated 5,000 people to attend High Times magazine's Cannabis Cup, a two-day celebration of all things marijuana at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. It was the second event of its kind at the venue since December's Emerald Cup.

Like the previous pot trade show, aficionados strolled among exhibits showing off the latest growing equipment and techniques. Attendees received medical marijuana evaluations, heard from experts on how to break into the burgeoning cannabis industry, listened to talks on legalization and attended classes for making food or “edibles” with THC.

A competition proclaimed the best buds.

Most of the action was inside the so-called medication area, where those with medical marijuana cards sampled high-end buds and hash oil from dozens of suppliers.

Phylicia Avila of Pleasant Hill toked a glass pipe and exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. She said she'd recently attended a similar event in San Jose but Santa Rosa's cup was bigger, not to mention warmer.

“There's a lot more going on,” she said.

Bikini-clad women from GFarmaLabs of Anaheim Hills also passed out free dabs of hash oil to passers-by. Sales associate Chris Herrera said the Bay Area crowd seemed much more savvy than others across the state.

“Consumers here are up-to-date,” Herrera said. “There's not as much education needed. In many ways they are the pioneers.”

High Times editorial director Dan Skye agreed California would have an edge if it voted to legalize. A larger population than most states and growing capacity in the Central Valley would make it a force.

“If California legalized, it would show Colorado what the industry is all about,” he said.

A number of local dispensaries turned out.

Morgan Manlopig of Santa Rosa-based Peace in Medicine said he was struck by the number of families. He said it was a sign that negative stigmas about marijuana were wearing off.

About the only improvement organizers could have made to the sun-drenched event, Manlopig said, was to bring more food and drink. He said vendors appeared under-prepared for the hearty appetites.

“They are under siege,” Manlopig said. “It's 95 degrees at the Cannabis Cup. They should have brought more lemons.”

State Health Minister to discuss medical cannabis trials at the University of Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government will talk to a company proposing cannabis medical trials involving the University of Tasmania.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson is meeting company representatives on Tuesday, and is also expected to be lobbied by a cross party delegation of New South Wales MPs on Thursday.

"I'm certainly going to be willing to listen to what people have to say but I'm not going to be participating in any exercise which opens up further liberalisation of the smoking of pot," he said.

Tasmania has had a successful pharmaceutical poppy industry for decades and advocates say that makes the state an ideal home for a medicinal cannabis industry.

I'm not going to be participating in any exercise which opens up further liberalisation of the smoking of pot.

A company called Tasman Health Cannabinoids hopes to run a research trial in conjunction with the University of Tasmania.

On Saturday, State Growth Minister Matthew Groom said it was not on the Government's radar.

"We've got no plans to change state laws in relation to the regulation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, that's really a matter for the federal regulators," he said.

Mr Ferguson later said he would consider allowing medical cannabis trials.

"I'm not talking about cannabis as a smoking product, I'm talking about cannabinoids which are the pharmaceutical elements that are contained within cannabis and I think just like any other herbal source, they should be available for clinical consideration and they are," he said.

"In Tasmania and around Australia a number of cannabinoids that are derived from cannabis are in fact available through perfectly legal and authorised prescriptions for certain medical illnesses and I think that's the way it should be."

Opposition supports idea but flags hurdles

Opposition spokeswoman Lara Giddings said Labor supported the idea but getting through regulatory hurdles would be tough.

"This has been a big frustration for us as a former government for many years," she said.

Ms Giddings said the time had come for doctors to be able to prescribe the drug for pain relief.

"It seems unreal that we can have opiate based medication available to patients when they need it but they can't use cannabis-based medication," she said.

The Tasmanian Greens want a Parliamentary Committee inquiry set up to consider the potential legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the state.

Greens Health spokesperson Cassy O'Connor said the party had long supported calls from medical professionals for more research and clinical trials as well as regulated access to medicinal cannabis.

"There are many individual stories of improved symptoms and quality of life from people who've used medicinal cannabis," Ms O'Connor said.

"Such an inquiry would examine contemporary scientific and medical research, engage with health consumers and professionals, explore any relevant federal and state jurisdictional considerations, and most importantly, require public consultation which will provide an avenue for politicians to hear directly from doctors and patients affected."

Farmers keen but warn of regulatory minefield

Tasmania's farmers' lobby has welcomed the idea of growing medicinal cannabis in the state, but warned of a regulatory minefield.

Jan Davis, from the Farmers and Graziers Association, said a new crop would be welcome, but there are major barriers to growing the plant.

"The sheer weight of regulation makes it almost impossible to grow hemp of any description in Tasmania on any scale," she said.

"The rules are much, much stricter for farmers than they are even for opium poppies we've been trying to establish our hemp fibre industry for many years and not successfully, that's because of this burden of regulation.

Cannabis-centric farmers market to debut in Boyle Heights

The ever-popular farmers market scene in Los Angeles could soon see the introduction of a whole new type of green — albeit targeted to a very specific consumer.

What's being billed as L.A.'s first cannabis-centric farmers market is to make its debut in Boyle Heights over the Fourth of July weekend. The motivation for organizers is similar to what has made farmers markets ubiquitous across Los Angeles: direct access to produce — or, in this case, pot producers.

"We are offering a new type of way for patients in Los Angeles to access their medicine," said Paizley Bradbury, executive director of the West Coast Collective, the Boyle Heights marijuana dispensary that is hosting the California Heritage Market inside a warehouse-like structure.

FOR THE RECORD: An article in the June 28 LATExtra section about the opening of a cannabis-centric farmers market in Boyle Heights said a marijuana collective would be closed from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day so that the ability of customers to purchase marijuana could be verified. Although the collective will be closed, the cannabis-centric market will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m from July 4 through July 6.


At the market, she said, card-carrying medical marijuana patients will be able to smell, touch and — yes — purchase fresh, organic buds directly from growers who will be coming in from around the state.

Marijuana treats, oils, concentrated cannabis and glass pipes may also be on the menu.

David Welsh, who represents the West Coast Collective and several other dispensaries throughout the region, said the market is not "some rogue shop" and complies with local laws.

The event won't be open to the public in the way most open-air farmers markets are, and access will be limited to those who can legally buy pot.

Organizers said they intend to close the collective from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day so they can verify that every customer is legally able to purchase marijuana products, a process that will include calling their doctors, checking IDs and running licenses through the state's medical marijuana program database.

"It's a novel idea," Welsh said of the market. "It really holds true to the purpose of the medical marijuana law."

The city attorney's office did not respond to questions Friday on the legality of the event or whether it would be challenged.

LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera said it doesn't appear that organizers would be breaking the law so long as they sell only to licensed customers.

The West Coast Collective's 15,000-square-foot shop in the 1500 block of South Esperanza Street is one of 135 dispensaries allowed to operate in Los Angeles under Proposition D, the ballot measure passed last year that set up the legal parameters for some dispensaries to remain open.

For months, organizers discussed cutting out the middleman for medical marijuana patients, much as typical farmers markets do for thousands of consumers across L.A. every week.

The idea for a cannabis market, Bradbury said, came after she noticed that some dispensaries were providing false information about the product and significantly increasing their prices to patients.

A market would give patients an opportunity to talk to growers and get wholesale prices — something that isn't usually available.

"Dispensaries are supposed to allow patients to access their growers," Bradbury said.

DEA to FDA: Consider Looser Marijuana Restrictions

Washington, DC (WLTX) -- The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly conducting an analysis of Marijuana, at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The study, reported by Bloomberg, is examining whether or not restrictions on marijuana should be relaxed, possibly downgrading it from a Schedule 1 drug. Deputy Director for the FDA's Regulatory Programs, Douglas Throckmorton, provided written testimony to a recent congressional hearing regarding the analysis.

Schedule 1 drugs, including heroin, are considered the most dangerous classification of drugs, having high potential of abuse and possibility of severe psychological and physical dependence, per the DEA Drug Scheduling definitions website.

The most restrictive of DEA classifications, Schedule 1 drugs are considered substances with no medical benefit and the aforementioned risks. The intent of the review by the FDA is to help alleviate differentiating between state and federal laws, where currently 22 states permit the medical use of marijuana, contrary to the Schedule 1 classification.

Washington State and Colorado are the first two states in the country to permit recreational marijuana use.

Florida GOP Rep. John Mica, who heads the oversight hearing on marijuana research, examining the changes in public attitude towards the drug, said of the study: "This has big implications."

The DEA requested review of marijuana by the FDA in 2001 and 2006, though the results in those analyses recommended it remain Schedule 1 both times.

This current review will take into account eight different factors by the FDA, after which the agency consult with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, then the Department of Health and Human Services, ahead of returning the study to the DEA.

Throckmorton would not attest to when the final results, and possible downgrade of classification as a Schedule 1 drug, are expected to come along.

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