MJ News for 10/24/2014


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

NFL limits on marijuana still strict, but not really

Tug McGraw was once asked which he preferred, Astroturf or grass. "I don't know," he said. "I never smoked Astroturf."

That was 1974, when artificial turf was relatively new and he was more famous as a relief pitcher than as Tim McGraw's father. Forty years later, professional athletes don't crack many marijuana jokes in public anymore.

Much of the country is more accepting of cannabis — it is legal for recreational use in two states and for medical use in 23 states plus the District of Columbia — but marijuana remains a banned substance in the NFL, although the league slightly relaxed testing standards in its revised Policy and Program on Substances for Abuse.

The updated policy, announced last month, increased the permitted threshold from 15 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 35 nanograms.

That's not science-speak for one free joint a week.

Experts say it's impossible to know how much might be consumed while staying under the limit because there are too many variables, such as potency of marijuana strain and body fat of a player. Besides, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), there's just not that much separation between 15 nanograms and 35 nanograms.

"We're talking the difference between 15 parts per billion and 35 parts per billion," he tells USA TODAY Sports. "From a mathematical, forensic point of view, the difference is incredibly slight. Only lawyers and arbitrators and mediators within the NFL system are ever going to appreciate it."

Major League Baseball uses a threshold of 50 nanograms — perhaps the late McGraw would be pleased — while the World Anti-Doping Agency, which does Olympic testing, uses a threshold of 150.

"You don't really start to get any margins of use unless you have a threshold of 50," St. Pierre says.

Ricky Williams, a former Pro Bowl running back, says a 35-nanogram limit would have made a world of difference to him. "If that was the threshold when I was in the NFL, I never would have been in the drug program," he says.


Williams, who was suspended twice, once for a full season, estimates that roughly 40% of NFL players use marijuana for pain and stress relief during any given season. And he thinks the NFL's testing policy offers a free pass for players to do so —by simply passing an offseason test.

NFL players are tested once a year — for marijuana, opiates, amphetamines and other illegal drugs — between April 20 and Aug. 9. Pass the test, and a player is good until next year. But those who test positive must enter intervention programs in which they can be tested more frequently and where more positive tests trigger escalating penalties.

At certain steps of the new policy, a player subject to discipline for a positive test for marijuana is eligible for a 10-game suspension, instead of a full year under the old policy. That's why Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is scheduled to return to the team for its Nov. 23 game at the Atlanta Falcons.

Gordon originally was suspended for a full year after testing positive in March. His A sample measured 16 nanograms per milliliter and his B sample measured 13.6, according to multiple news reports. If the A sample is positive, then the B sample need show only trace amounts to confirm the A sample, even if the B sample is below the threshold.

Williams says it is simply bad luck to have an A sample above the threshold and a B sample below because the samples come from the same specimen and, if reversed, a player would pass because if the A sample is below the threshold, testers do not look at the B sample.

"My A bottle was like 15.4 and my B bottle was like 14.6, something where I was right on the line," Williams says. "When I did a little bit of research, I found out how low that (threshold) was."

Williams thinks the NFL insists on a strict standard so that some players are caught, which offers the appearance of vigilant enforcement, even though he says players who pass the tests in late April through early August have what amounts to a free pass to use throughout the NFL season.

"I think if you ask the NFL, they'd say the drug program is for our safety," Williams says. "But I think it's more to protect the image of the league."

The policy states the league's rationale — combining notions of safety and of image — on the first of its 41 pages: "Substance abuse can lead to on-the-field injuries, to alienation of the fans, to diminished job performance and to personal hardship. … NFL Players should not by their conduct suggest that substance abuse is either acceptable or safe."


The new policy was hammered out between the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association. What do players think about the policy's rules on marijuana? Fourth-year Washington defensive end Jarvis Jenkins says, "It's not a thing we talk about."

The league mostly doesn't either. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello called it "a collectively bargained workplace policy" and declined to make the program's medical directors available for interview.

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who was his team's interim NFLPA rep when the new drug policy was discussed, served a six-game suspension in 2013 for violating the league's drug policy and tested positive for marijuana as a rookie in 2011. He believes the point of the new threshold is to prevent players from testing positive from secondhand smoke.

"There might be places where you can't avoid it — a concert or at the club — and you can't avoid what other people are doing around you," Miller says. "You have to remove yourself from the situation."

A paper published this month in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology says "increased cannabis potency has renewed concerns that secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke can produce positive drug tests." Gordon argued during his appeal that he tested positive because of secondhand smoke, but appeals officer Harold Henderson upheld Gordon's suspension in August.

The NFL's new policy says "passive inhalation shall be precluded as a defense in any appeal hearing." The old policy did not specifically preclude that defense, though Aiello says it was rejected in every case in which a player tried to use it.

"Someone like myself, who uses marijuana fairly frequently, I will have anywhere from 100 to 200 nanograms in my body at any one moment," St. Pierre says. "So those who regularly use cannabis, they would fail this test with flying colors all the time."

St. Pierre says police and firefighters often face drug testing on the job but that other American workers face it mostly when they are being hired for jobs.

"That's not so much to catch people who use marijuana and other drugs but, to use a bad pun here, to weed out employees who, given all fair warning that these tests are coming, manage to fail them, which probably speaks to other bad work habits," St. Pierre says. "So for the lay person, drug testing is usually used as a filter, to determine if someone will or will not be employed. It is pretty rare that people face, as these players do, on-the-job drug testing."

Robert Farrell, vice president of marketing for CannLabs, a testing lab for medical and non-medical marijuana in Colorado, thinks the NFL's marijuana testing policy is "based on society's moral judgment of what a player should be off the field and less on the science and the medicinal. We have 80 years of reefer madness that has colored and tainted our perception of a medicine."


Williams won a Heisman Trophy at the University of Texas and an NFL rushing title with the Miami Dolphins and yet is perhaps best known for smoking pot and serving those NFL suspensions.

"It's given me a bit of a reputation that I'll have to deal with for the next 20 years," he says, "until people forget."

Former players such as Lomas Brown, who retired in 2012, have suggested that as many as half of NFL players use marijuana. "That's a little high, but not too high," says Williams, who retired in 2011. "But I'm sure there are teams where it's at the 50% level."

Williams says marijuana offered him pain relief, stress relief and quicker healing times.

"It's easier on your liver," he says. "It doesn't cut your awareness off from your body, the way most pain medications do. It actually increases awareness of your body. So for instance when I played and I smoked, my body would relax and I'd go in the room and stretch a little bit and do some yoga. And relaxing would help my body recover faster.

"It's interesting that people talk about physical benefits. I think there are some psychological benefits, too, especially something like the NFL where the stress level is so high. It helps you relax, and everyone knows if your muscles relax the blood is going to flow, which means more blood, more oxygen, more nutrients, which decreases healing time."

Genifer Murray, founder and president of CannLabs, suggests marijuana is a safer and more effective drug than prescription pain pills, which carry the danger of addiction.

"My God, these athletes are allowed to take Vicodin and Percocet and they're not allowed to have more than 35 nanograms of marijuana," she says. "You kind of have to look at it like that. Marijuana obviously is less harmful and has a different titration than taking pills — and those pills are synthetic, where this is a natural plant."

David Bearman, a doctor in California who testifies as an expert witness in marijuana cases, says cannabis use "decreases reliance on opiates and alcohol, and I think that is a good thing. Cannabis works by the entourage effect, which means all the pharmacological active ingredients in the plant are working in concert to create a euphoric effect."

Williams says he regrets his reputation as a stoner but has no regrets about self-medicating with marijuana. "It worked for me," he says. "It was better for my body. It wasn't necessarily better for my career."

Now that he's retired, he says, he doesn't use anymore, for the simple reason that his pain and stress are gone.

"When I go places, people offer me pot all the time," Williams says, laughing. "And then I have to say, 'Well, I'm sorry, I don't do that anymore.' And they look so disappointed."


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Marijuana Industry Could Be Worth $35 Billion In 2020, If All States And Feds Legalize It

If all 50 states legalized marijuana and the federal government ended prohibition of the plant, the marijuana industry in the United States would be worth $35 billion just six years from now.

That's according to a new report from GreenWave Advisors, a research and advisory firm that serves the emerging marijuana industry in the U.S., which found that if all 50 states and the federal government legalized cannabis, combined sales for both medical and retail marijuana could balloon to $35 billion a year by 2020.

If the federal government doesn't end prohibition and the trajectory of state legalization continues on its current path, with more, but not all, states legalizing marijuana in some form, the industry in 2020 would still be worth $21 billion, GreenWave projects.

In its $21 billion 2020 model, GreenWave predicts 12 states plus the District of Columbia to have legalized recreational marijuana (besides Colorado and Washington, which legalized it in 2012). Those states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to data GreenWave provided to The Huffington Post from the full report. By that same year, the model assumes, 37 states will have legalized medical marijuana. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use.

"Our road map for the progression of states to legalize is very detailed –- our assumptions are largely predicated on whether a particular state has legislation in progress," Matt Karnes, founder and managing partner of GreenWave as well as author of the report, told HuffPost. "We assume that once legalization occurs, it will take a little over a year to implement a program and have product available for sale. So for example, for Florida, we expect the ballot measure to pass [this year] yet our sales forecast starts in year 2016. We think the time frame will lessen as new states to legalize will benefit from best practices."

As Karnes noted, some of these states are already considering legalization this November -- voters in Oregon, Alaska and D.C. are considering measures to legalize recreational marijuana, while Florida voters will weigh in on medical marijuana legalization.

GreenWave isn't the first group to suggest the federal government may end its decadeslong prohibition of marijuana. One congressman has even predicted that before the end of the decade, the federal government will legalize weed. And as outlandish as it may sound, it's already possible to observe significant shifts in federal policy toward pot.

The federal government allowed Colorado's and Washington's historic marijuana laws to take effect last year. President Barack Obama signed the 2014 farm bill, which legalized industrial hemp production for research purposes in the states that permit it, and the first hemp crops in U.S. soil in decades are already growing. And in May, the U.S. House passed measures attempting to limit Drug Enforcement Administration crackdowns on medical marijuana shops when they're legal in a state.

The GreenWave report also projects a substantial shift in the marijuana marketplace -- the merging of the medical and recreational markets in states that have both.

"In the state of Colorado, we are beginning to see the sales impact -- i.e., cannibalization of medical marijuana sales by the adult-use market -- when the two markets co-exist," Karnes said. "We expect a similar dynamic to unfold in those states that will implement a dual marijuana market."

Beginning in July, recreational marijuana sales in Colorado began to outpace medical for the first time, according to state Department of Revenue data.

Karnes writes in the executive summary that just what the marijuana industry will look like in 2020 will largely depend on how the industry is regulated and how it is taxed by that time.

"Since 'chronic pain' is the most common ailment among medical marijuana users, it is likely that recreational users can already purchase marijuana without great difficulty in states where medicinal use is legal," the report reads. "Accordingly, it can be argued that a merged market already exists in medical marijuana states. Less currently popular, but arguably providing more economic stimulus, would be a regulatory regime providing for only adult recreational use."


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Ebola.com Purchased for $200K by Marijuana Company. And It Gets Stranger From There

Earlier this month, we reported that Ebola.com’s owner, a disease-obsessed domain name vendor called Blue String Ventures, was hoping to sell the URL for at least $150,000. Now, according to a report from DomainInvesting.com, Ebola.com has been sold to a Russian company that is apparently focused on the marijuana business.

Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Ebola.com was bought by Weed Growth Fund for $50,000 in cash and 19,192 shares of Cannabis Sativa, a Mesquite, Nevada-based recreational and medical marijuana company that trades on over-the-counter markets. Based on Cannabis Sativa’s current stock price, those shares are valued at roughly $164,000, making the overall transaction worth just over $200,000.

So to recap: Ebola.com was sold to a marijuana-related company based in Russia that paid mostly in the stock of another marijuana company.

But the story’s not over yet. As recently as September of this year, Weed Growth Fund was known as Ovation Research, which according to this BusinessWeek profile was in the business of distributing “stainless steel cookware products for retail and wholesale customers in North America.”

Then, on Sept. 19, the company filed with the Nevada Secretary of State changing its name to Weed Growth Fund. (We tried to contact Weed Growth Fund by phone and email to ask about the deal and name change, but got no answer.)

Why would a marijuana company want to own the URL Ebola.com? Elliot Silver, DomainInvesting.com’s publisher, asked Blue String Ventures founder Jon Schultz this very question. And while Schultz replied that he did not know why Weed Growth Fund wanted the domain, he did send Silver to this Marijuana.com article in which Cannabis Sativa CEO Gary Johnson (the former two-term New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate!) claims that marijuana can be used to treat Ebola. (You can see him do it in this Fox Business interview.) Cannabis Sativa also did not respond to requests for comment.

So there you have it. A newly renamed, Russian weed-related company bought Ebola.com using shares of a medical marijuana business run by a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who thinks that pot should be used to treat Ebola. And no, you’re not high (as far as we know). This really happened.


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Oregon marijuana legalization opponent admits he was wrong about children deaths

Dr. Ron Schwerzler, who caused an uproar at a Tuesday night debate on marijuana legalization when he claimed that five Colorado children died after consuming the drug, on Wednesday retracted his statement and acknowledged he was wrong.

"I really need to retract that statement because I can't back it up," said Schwerzler, the medical director at an addictions treatment center in Eugene. He said he might have been misunderstanding accounts of children who have been hospitalized in Colorado after accidentally eating marijuana-laced candies or other edibles.

Schwerzler appeared on a panel debating the legalization initiative, Measure 91, at Portland State University that will be broadcast at 9 a.m. Sunday on KATU(2). When the discussion turned to the issue of how legalization has worked in Colorado, Schwerzler said:

"Let's concentrate on those edibles. There have been five infant children deaths in Colorado that have picked up those drugs."

Several people in the audience began rebutting Schwerzler, yelling, "not true" and "what source."

After Schwerzler retracted his claim, Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the Yes on 91 campaign, called it "yet another example of how opponents of marijuana reform have for 70 years been using misinformation and scare tactics" to keep the drug illegal. He argued that more accurate information about the impact of the drug would become available if it is legalized and regulated.

Schwerzler's claim came as news to two well-known critics of Colorado's law. Rachel O'Bryan of Smart Colorado and Bob Doyle of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, both said they didn't know of any children's deaths from accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles.

However, O'Bryan said there have been several well-publicized cases in the state of children being hospitalized after eating edible marijuana products.

Elisabeth Whitehead, a spokesman for Children's Hospital Colorado, said in an email that the hospital has had an increase in the number of children it has treated for accidental ingestion of edible marijuana products in the last several years.

In 2013, following the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana, the hospital treated eight children. After retail sales began in January of this year -- the hospital had treated 13 children as of early August.

Of those 13 children, Whitehead said, seven were admitted to the intensive care unit and two required the insertion of a breathing tube.

There has been wide controversy in Colorado over the broad number of marijuana-laced candies, cookies and other products sold by retailers, and a state commission is now studying what restrictions to adopt. The state Department of of Public Health and Environment broached the idea of restricting edibles to hard lozenges and liquid drops, but backed away from that after the proposal became public.

Schwerzler emailed a statement Wednesday to leaders of the No on 91 campaign retracting his claim. Here is what he said:

After our conversation today I realized that my statement about children's deaths in Colorado is in error. There have been admits to ICUs for children who have eaten edibles and were hospitalized. I was in error and deeply regret any consequences of my actions. As a physician I make every effort to be honest with my patients and myself. When wrong I try to promptly admit it and make amends whenever possible.

-- Jeff Mapes


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Marijuana Taxes On The Ballot This November

Voter approval of retail marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington State in 2012 presented lawmakers in those state capitals with a difficult task not faced before in the U.S.: how to tax and regulate legal recreational marijuana. As Joe Henchman, Vice President at the non-partisan Tax Foundation has pointed out, “Because marijuana can be purchased as a cigarette, an edible, a liquid, or vapor, all with a wide variety of concentrations, a specific excise tax is untenable.” Since then, Colorado and Washington State lawmakers have imposed onerous and excessive taxes on marijuana; but on Nov. 4, Washington State voters will have the opportunity to tell their representatives in the state legislature to reconsider.

During the 2014 session of the Washington legislature, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 6505, which deemed the marijuana industry to be non-agricultural, thereby removing excise tax protections that apply to the state’s agriculture industry. This redefining of the industry will permit, if allowed to stand, more than $24 million in higher taxes over the next decade than would’ve otherwise been the case. On Nov. 4, Washington residents will vote on Advisory Question Number 8, a ballot measure that would urge the legislature to either maintain or repeal this reclassification of marijuana products as non-agricultural.

Washington State taxes marijuana with a 25 percent assessment on sales from producers to processors, a 25 percent tax on sales from processors to retailers, followed by another 25 percent tax on retail sales. That’s not all. Then there is the Evergreen State’s Business & Occupation gross receipts tax, a 6.5 percent state sales tax, along with local sales taxes. Altogether this brings the estimated effective tax rate on marijuana products to approximately 44 percent. In light of the onerous tax treatment of marijuana products and companies tied to that industry, it would be a positive development for Washington voters to vote repeal on Advisory Question 8 and urge lawmakers in Olympia to reverse the non-agricultural reclassification that will beget such punitive taxation.

But it’s not just at the state level where the marijuana industry faces excessive and unfair taxation. It’s a basic principle of sound tax policy that the code should not pick winners and losers or disproportionately target certain industries or groups of taxpayers. Yet unlike any other business, newly-legalized cannabis dispensaries are not allowed to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses like equipment, rent, and wages from their federal taxable income.

In 2013, Americans for Tax Reform released “Legal Cannabis Dispensary Taxation: A Textbook Case of Punishing Law-Abiding Businesses Through the Tax Code,” a policy brief examining the flawed federal tax treatment of marijuana dispensaries, how it came about, and how to fix it.

Fortunately a fix has been proposed; there is a bill pending in Congress sponsored by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) & Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), H.R. 2240, which would fix this flawed tax regime by allowing the deduction of ordinary and necessary expenses for state-sanctioned cannabis dispensaries.

In a letter sent to members of Congress, ATR made the case why lawmakers should support H.R. 2240:

“H.R. 2240 corrects a mistake in the tax code Congress never intended to create. In an attempt to deny tax deductions connected to the illegal drug income of street dealers, Congress accidentally imposed a gross receipts tax on legal cannabis dispensaries a generation later.

Section 280E of the tax code denies ‘ordinary and necessary’ business expenses as a deduction against income derived from Schedule 1 substances. Unfortunately, tax law does not make any distinction between illegal street drug sales and state-established, legal cannabis dispensaries. These latter businesses comply fully with state law, pay all applicable taxes, and are vigorously regulated.

There is no reason why the tax code should deny ordinary and necessary business expenses to legitimate businesses established under state law. The result is an arbitrary and punitive situation where legal employers face very high average effective tax rates that Congress never sought to impose on businesses.

Colorado, like Washington State and the federal government, exorbitantly taxes marijuana. Between the state’s 15 percent wholesale excise tax, a 10 percent state tax on marijuana retail sales, plus traditional state and local sales taxes, the effective rate on cannabis approaches 30 percent in the Rocky Mountain State.

It’s great to have 50 laboratories of democracy across the U.S., and the trials with legal marijuana taking place in Washington and Colorado will be instructive for other states and the federal government. Yet, when such heavy and unreasonable taxation is imposed, it blunts the positive effects of legal cannabis – such as the eradication of black markets and drug cartels – and makes it impossible to fully learn from the experience. Washington voters and members of Congress have the opportunity to help get it right, if they so choose.


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Pot vs. Beer: Legalization Advocates Push Comparison of Marijuana And Alcohol

David Boyer has challenged South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins to a “hit for shot” duel in a public park. For every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would take a toke of marijuana, and the crowd would decide who was in worse physical condition in the end.

Boyer is not some college kid, acting out. He's the Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), and he's using an approach that's been an election-winner before.

In 2012, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana. The state broke new ground in the ongoing battle over narcotics policy, and the referendum's success validated the innovative technique of comparing cannabis to alcohol. Now that message is being deployed in marijuana-related elections in Alaska and Oregon as well as in Maine, and these ballot initiatives are in advance of a broader multistate push in 2016.

Boyer proposed the "drug duel" after Police Chief Googins announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize marijuana possession. “Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus, it’s not even funny,” Googins told the Bangor Daily News.

“We have done everything in our power to highlight the danger associated with laws that steer adults toward drinking by threatening to punish them if they make the safer choice to use marijuana,” Boyer said in a press release. “Enough is enough. Perhaps this dramatic demonstration of the relative harms of each substance will finally get the point across.” Boyer promised to bring “enough alcohol to kill a man” to the duel.

Googins isn't playing along. “Any type of challenge like this isn’t going to prove a thing other than that people can get high or get drunk,” he said. In a follow-up email, he added of the duel proposal: "I can tell you I don’t violate several local and state laws in a public park when requested. I spend my time enforcing the law."

The "drug duel" concept, urging voters to weigh the relative dangers of cannabis and alcohol, is the brainchild of MPP officials Steve Fox and Mason Tvert. (Fox has since left the group.) In the years leading up to Colorado's historic legalization vote, Tvert slammed politicians such as Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and 2004 GOP U.S. Senate candidate for Colorado Pete Coors for opposing marijuana legalization when they had made their personal fortunes selling alcohol. He challenged both men to drug duels.

After marijuana legalization campaigns failed in Nevada and California, Tvert and Fox persuaded advocates in Colorado to explicitly frame the 2012 campaign around the alcohol vs. marijuana comparison. Ultimately, the official name of the successful state ballot initiative was the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012.

Tvert said that in a state with a beer brewer governor, a burgeoning craft beer industry and a professional baseball stadium named after a brand of alcohol, the strategy helped voters become comfortable with the idea of legalizing a mind-altering product.

“The message is simple: If we can regulate alcohol, we can regulate a far less harmful substance,” he said. “Marijuana has been illegal because too many people think it is too dangerous to allow adults to use, when in fact it is less harmful than alcohol.”

Since the Colorado vote, that message has gained political traction. From crime research to hospital data to morbidity statistics, there is plenty of evidence to support the assertion -- although researchers are still investigating the differing health effects of inhaled vs. ingested marijuana, and pot consumers are often unaware of the potency of any given purchase.

In January, the New Yorker reported that President Obama said, “I don’t think [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol.” A few months later, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing that 69 percent of Americans say alcohol is more harmful to people’s health than marijuana.

In this election cycle, the alcohol-marijuana comparison is defining legalization campaigns in two Maine cities. Voters in Lewiston and South Portland will decide on a legalization initiative similar to the one that Portland, Maine, passed last year -- and similar to one that could be on the statewide ballot in 2016.

In Alaska, the organization behind the “Yes on 2” initiative has named itself the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and has sponsored bus ads promoting the idea that marijuana is the safer substance.

Though much of the legalization campaign in Oregon has focused on public safety, activists designed that initiative to invoke the alcohol comparison. Their proposal would have the Oregon Liquor Control Commission expand its regulatory oversight to marijuana.

“Everyone recognizes that alcohol prohibition was a huge failure,” says Tvert, whose organization has created committees focused on the 2016 elections in Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and California. “Our point is that marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a disaster.”


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Jailed: Gang who planted James Bond-style tracking devices on cannabis farmers

A gang used James Bond-style tracking devices to stalk cannabis farmers and steal their lucrative crop.

Scott Calder, 23 - who survived a shooting outside a bingo hall in January - led a gang which targeted illicit harvests across Manchester.

The team carried out surveillance outside a shop in Ardwick selling ‘hydroponics’ equipment used for growing potent skunk.

They planted matchbox-sized GPS ‘trackers’ on customers’ cars to pinpoint their stashes and the best time to steal them. The gang also got tip-offs from other crooks who knew they ‘robbed grows’.

One victim was even taunted by Calder’s fellow ‘director’ Dale Hall ‘that his head would be blown off’ unless he returned the magnetic device they had hidden on his car.

But, in a twist, the thieves were themselves being kept under surveillance and had been bugged by detectives who feared the raids would spark a gang war.

The mob’s hi-tech methods not only revealed the extent of their operation - but also helped police to shut down the illegal cannabis farms.

Now Calder, of Hillbrook Avenue, Moston, and Hall, 29, of no fixed address, have been jailed at Manchester Crown Court for three-and-a-half years and four years respectively.

Ryan Hayes, 26, of Barsdale Avenue, Moston was jailed for 32 months, Paul Andrews, 25, of Pitmore Walk, Moston, three years and nine months, and Jack Biernat, 27, of Thatch Leach, Chadderton, was jailed for three years. Each admitted conspiracy to burgle between March and June.

In March the gang tried to raid an address in Hyde - but were chased off by a farmer with a massive dog. Two days later they raided another grower in Failsworth, escaping with a duvet cover full of weed.

Police bugged Calder’s car and learnt one grower was followed from Ardwick to Sale in alternating cars.

Officers found the thieves were using their own knowledge of growing so they could strike when plants were ‘ready for harvest’.

In April Calder was arrested with a combat knife in his car, but the plot went on. One month later, police found a stolen laptop inside a car used by the crooks and learnt they were using tracking software to watch Newton Heath growers and Vietnamese gangsters in Cheetham Hill.

Adam Watkins, prosecuting, said victims were very unlikely to report the offences - and there was a ‘real danger of serious violence between rival criminal gangs’ instead.

Sentencing, Judge Patrick Field QC said it was a ‘sophisticated and well-planned scheme’.

Detective Constable Wes Knights said: "These men were involved in a criminal plot to 'tax' cannabis farms - in other words, steal the plants from known dealers and farmers and reap the rewards for themselves.

"The indiscriminate nature of their tactics left innocent members of the public at risk, which is something we as a Police service cannot tolerate"

"The theft of cannabis plants, known among the criminal fraternity as 'taxing', is a very dangerous one. Not only does it continue to propagate the market for illegal drugs to be sold and people to suffer serious harm as a result of consuming those drugs, but it creates rivalries and bad blood between gangs that leads to other criminality. All too often, innocent people are caught up in this.

"That is why taking this gang off the streets is a fantastic result not just for GMP, but for people who are fed-up with cannabis dealers operating in their area.

"We have effectively cut out a major supply route for cannabis getting onto our streets and also taken a dangerous group of criminal with access to weapons and tracking devices out of the game. It is a massive good news story for everyone.

"I would urge members of the public to help us in our fight against these dealers. If you suspect cannabis is being grown or dealt in your area, there are some telltale signs to look out for such as houses were the curtains are always closed and is frequented by different people at night, so if you have any suspicious please call us and we will take action."


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Teenagers who smoke cannabis regularly do worse in exams, study finds

Teenagers who frequently smoke cannabis tend to do worse in exams, a large study of British schoolchildren has found.

Adolescents who have smoked cannabis 50 times by the age of 15 show ‘impaired’ educational abilities, according to a study by University College London.

The impact of lighter cannabis use is hard to discern, the researchers found, because it is difficult to isolate the different influences of rebellious teenage behaviour such as drinking, smoking and other drug use.

The findings, presented at a science conference in Berlin, add to a growing weight of evidence that suggests cannabis is more harmful than legalisation campaigners would have us believe.

Last week a review of 20 years of cannabis research, published by a professor at King’s College London, revealed that one in six teenagers who use cannabis become dependent on the drug, as do one in ten adults.

The King’s College review also suggested that cannabis may cause mental health problems and can open the door to hard drugs.

The risk of developing psychotic disorders including schizophrenia doubles with heavy cannabis use in the teenage years, it found.

The new study focuses on the educational attainment of teenagers who smoke cannabis.

Researchers analysed data from 2,235 children from Bristol.

The information, taken from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children project, follows the health of children born in 1991 and 1992.

The participants each had their IQ tested at age 8 and again at 15, when they also completed a study on cannabis use and other lifestyle factors.

The IQ results were correlated with their GCSE results a year later to see what impact the drug had on exams.

The researchers could find no link between light cannabis use and their exam results, mainly because there was no way to pull apart the various impacts on exam scores.

Negative behaviour such as drinking, smoking and other drug use each had an impact on exams, so there was no method of isolating the impact of light cannabis use.

But they found that the impact of heavy cannabis use was so significant that they were able to pick it out despite the other factors.

Those who had smoked cannabis more than 50 times before they were 15 did distinctly worse in their GCSEs - with an average 3 per cent results drop - even after adjusting for previous educational performance, alcohol, cigarette and other drug use.

Lead researcher Claire Mokrysz, who presented her results at the congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Berlin, said: ‘Adolescent cannabis use often goes hand in hand with other drug use, such as alcohol and cigarette smoking, as well as other risky lifestyle choices.

‘It’s hard to know what causes what - do kids do badly at school because they are smoking weed, or do they smoke weed because they’re doing badly? This study suggests it is not as simple as saying cannabis is the problem.’

But she added: ‘The finding that heavier cannabis use is linked to marginally worse educational performance is important to note, warranting further investigation.’

The chair of the congress, Prof Guy Goodwin of the University of Oxford, said: ‘This is a potentially important study because it suggests that the current focus on the alleged harms of cannabis may be obscuring the fact that its use is often correlated with that of other even more freely available drugs and possibly lifestyle factors.

‘These may be as or more important than cannabis itself.’


Jul 25, 2008
Reaction score

Cannabis Can Harm Your (Financial) Health


- Fast-Growing World Market for Recreational and Medicinal Cannabis.

- Conflict Between Federal and State Law in the USA a complicating factor.

- Difficulty in Finding reputable companies in which to invest.

- GW Pharmaceuticals has been the best entry into the market but probably now over-bought.

- Cannabis Companies in the USA have problem with accessing finance.

There is little doubt that the use of cannabis is on the rise worldwide, for both recreational and medicinal use, but for those wishing to invest in companies involved in this fast-growing market, it is difficult to find businesses which do not have extremely opaque qualities.

Cannabis is benefiting on a social level from what have been termed "social wars" changes in the USA, where it has become much more accepted, along with trends such as gay marriage and abortion. In Europe these changes have generally already taken place: recreational use has either been specifically de-criminalized (such as in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands) or else effectively de-criminalized. Medicinally, GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH) has found its "Sativex" drug approved in 17 countries in Europe and 6 elsewhere in the world.

In the USA the situation is more confused because of the conflict between Federal law and states laws. New York City may have recently hosted the "East Coast Cannabis Expo" featuring exotica such as cannabis-based pet foods and beauty products, but no-one could buy the items. Recreational use is of course legal in Colorado and Washington State, while 23 other states are going through legal processes to make medicinal cannabis legal. Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have referenda coming up on legalisation of recreational use. However, the Federal Government still regards cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, and as such banks have shied away from financing the industry in any way. This is one reason why there have been so many cases of "pump and dump" companies out there waiting for the naive retail investor.

The innate conservatism of American society makes it unlikely that legalisation on a Federal level will come anytime soon, and investors need to be wary accordingly. This is actually somewhat counter-intuitive. Imagine if someone today suddenly invented a new beverage called "alcohol". There would be no chance of this being legalized. Recent studies in the U.K. for instance show that out of a population of 64 million, 9.6 million people drink to excess, there were over 991,949 overnight hospital stays due to excess drinking, and 6.3 million visits to hospital Accident & Emergency Departments. Of course, the USA did try to ban alcohol once and we all know what a disaster that was, and the "war on drugs" seems to be similarly futile. It can be argued that the long-term effects of cannabis usage are still somewhat uncertain, and it is no doubt harmful if taken to excess, but that is true of most things in life.

Despite the legal uncertainties, the legal cannabis business in the USA is still predicted to grow 60% this year and reach US$2.5 billion in revenue, while the medical marijuana business alone is slated to reach US$9 billion by 2018. How does the retail investor get in on the ride?

State bodies have replicated the enthusiasm of individuals to get involved in cannabis, having seen how much revenue Colorado and Washington have accrued from taxation. According to figures from Nerdwallet, states could get an additional US$3.1 billion in tax revenues from legalisation, and this at a time when more and more states are posting deficits.

However, investment in cannabis companies in the UDSA remains highly speculative, at best. The saga of Growlife (OTC:pHOT) is salutary. The share price soared earlier this year, and indeed some of the impetus came from comments punting the company on Seeking Alpha. Almost inevitably, in April the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) stepped in and suspended trading "because of questions that have been raised about the accuracy and adequacy of information in the marketplace and potentially manipulative transactions in PHOT's common stock". Doubts about adequacy, accuracy and manipulation could equally be applied to many other companies in this sector.

Other popular stocks that were much touted include Medical Marijuana (OTCPK:MJNA),Vape (OTCQB:VAPE) and Medbox (OTCQB:MDBX). If you look at 52 week highs and lows for these companies you get:

PHOT US$0.01 to US$0.80.

MJNA US$0.09 to US$0.48.

MDBX US$7.90 to US$93.50

VAPE US$0.35 to US$41.25.

It will be noted that these companies, and most of their counterparts, are traded on the over the counter market, which produces its own problems for the retail investor. Stock-pickers can make up their own minds and do their own research about individual companies, but they are certainly high risk, and there have been rumors that the SEC is about to step in again with investigations into some of the companies on the OTC market. The risk is greatly increased by the fact that banks won't touch them in fear of Federal sanction, and the only way they are likely to raise money in the future is by massive share dilution.

Some solid companies may emerge in the future, and there has been much speculation that the big tobacco companies might get involved, something which no doubt many will consider to be the ultimate unethical investment! However, they are unlikely to make any moves while the Federal position is uncertain, and are more likely to see e-cigarettes as a better driver of future revenue growth.

Due to this opaque situation in the USA, U.K. based GW Pharmaceuticals has been the darling of the cannabis investor, as just about the only medical marijuana company which actually has approved drugs out in the market-place, and from its safer U.K. (rather than USA) base. However, its "Sativex" cannabinoid-based drug for treatment of multiple scleroris spasticity and hopefully cancer pain for which it has shown great promise, despite being approved in 25 countries, has so far seen somewhat disappointing sales, mainly because of pricing rather than efficacy. There are uncertainties about whether "Sativex" will ever get approval in the USA due to Federal law, though it is currently undergoing Phase III trials for use both for cancer pain and for treating spasticity. GW has quite a few other promising drugs in its pipeline, including "Epidiolex" for childhood epilepsy, and GWP42003 for various conditions including colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, glioma and schizophrenia.

There is no doubt that medicinal marijuana will be a substantial growth industry in the next few years, but it may not be good timing to get into GW right now. I have to declare an interest here, as I previously owned shares and sold at a good profit. I would buy again, but only after some pull-back from the current price. The range between 52 week highs and lows is US$22.56 and US$111.46 with the price at US$73.04 at the time of writing. In fact, Merrill Lynch just came out with a price target of US$110 but you don't get rich by following analyst calls. For me, though, a major problem with medicinal marijuana stocks is the fact that because of the FDA they are a greater gamble than small bio-tech stocks, themselves a big gamble based on whether drugs in the pipe-line get approved and are efficacious.

It is a multi-billion dollar question as to whether the cannabinoid drug industry can reach its full potential without FDA approval. Some other countries with strict drugs policies won't touch cannabinoids either: for instance, Singapore recently seemed to state it would not approve them under any circumstances, despite the country's status as a centre for medical tourism. Elsewhere in the world the auguries look more promising. A recent report for instance discussed the promise of an inhaler to be used for medical marijuana patients, being developed by an Israeli company, Syqe Medical.

As mentioned earlier, "Sativex" itself is approved for use in 25 countries, and is on prescription in the U.K, Spain, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Austria, Poland, Sweden and Italy. A list of the countries in which GW expects to launch shortly is interesting: it includes Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. That is to say, most areas of the world that could afford to use a cannabinoid drug are moving towards doing so. Globally the trend is no doubt towards greater legalisation of both recreational and medicinal cannabis products. It is definitely an area for the private investor to study but "caveat emptor", the question is not so much to find the potential, but rather to find the companies to realize the potential.