BY KEITH STROUP
I just returned a few days ago from the annual Seattle Hempfest, the 24th version of this extravaganza, and I thought I might share some of my reflections on this extraordinary and unique event.
First and foremost, Hempfest is truly an enormous undertaking that requires several days of long hours to assemble the stages and hundreds of individual exhibitor and vendor booths; three days of long hours to manage, including a security team to guard the park overnight and provisions to feed the hundreds of volunteers each day; and then several days of equally long hours to disassemble everything, clean the grounds and replace any damaged turf.
And keep in mind this is an all-volunteer event sponsored by Seattle Events, a not-for-profit corporation, and is also free to the public. The event costs the Hempfest organization nearly $900,000 to put on, and that money is raised largely from vendors, exhibitors and sponsors. The volunteer effort is headed by Hempfest co-founder and Executive Director Vivian McPeak. McPeak leads a core group of volunteers who meet year around to plan for the next Hempfest, and who run a downtown store called Hempfest Central selling all sorts of hemp-based products.
There are three primary stages (the Share Parker Memorial Main Stage; the Peter McWilliams Memorial Stage; and the Ralph Seeley Memorial Stage, all named for beloved legalization activists who are no longer with us) spread along a narrow piece of parkland called the Myrtle Edwards Park. The park extends more than a mile along the downtown Seattle waterfront, from which an array of bands perform each day, with several speakers scheduled for brief 5-minute speeches between music sets (while the next band is setting-up). Some of the prominent speakers this year included Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from CA, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and public television travel guru and author (and NORML board member) Rick Steves.
There is also a separate tent called the Hemposium, where panels are scheduled each day focusing on the politics of legalization along with cultivation techniques, and edibles and concentrates. Most Hempfest attendees, however, seem to enjoy strolling the grounds lined with literally hundreds of organizational booths and food vendors (no alcohol is permitted), enjoying the colorful crowd and the live music. Attracting a crowd to the more serious panels is a challenge each year, as most of the estimated 90,000 people attending each day are there to relax and have fun, not to attend seminars.
The first thing one becomes aware of when entering the Hempfest is the rather long, narrow walkway from the entrance just to get to the event itself; and just when you think you have reached the center of things, you realize the park continues for more than a mile, with every inch lined with booths and vendors on both sides. If one is speaking at one of the distant stages, you have to allow as much as an hour or more to wade through the crowds on the narrow, crowded pathways to arrive at your destination. Most attendees seem to come for the day, making one big loop through the park to catch a glimpse of everything, before picking a comfortable place to spend time listening to music and speeches at one of the stages, before starting the trek out of the park and back to reality.
Also, anyone attending for the first time would be amazed at the colorful and creative look of many who attend. Although the majority are ordinary-looking folks who have come to enjoy a day in the park with other marijuana affectionados, a fair number clearly see the Hempfest as an opportunity to fly their freak-flags. People with bazar clothing and costumes, and sometimes face and body paint; a few were topless with marijuana leaves painted strategically on their bodies. It is, after all, a counter-cultural celebration of personal freedom.
After my first Hempfest, I told a friend that I had discovered the answer to the question of where all the hippies from Woodstock had gone: I saw them at the Hempfest!
And everyone is in a celebratory mood, enjoying the scene and soaking-in the good vibes. Since alcohol is not allowed anywhere in the park, there are no drunks, no fights and none of the problems one might find in a crowded beer garden. Instead those who want are high on some form of marijuana, and all are feeling mellow and celebrating the reality that marijuana has now been legalized in Washington state.
NORML, along with WA NORML, always has a booth near the main stage (the NORML Women of Washington have another booth nearby), next to the High Times booth, which allows us to hang out with our friends from the magazine, and back each other up if someone needs to leave to deliver a talk at some distant stage. With the two biggest brands in the legalization field being next to each other, that is always a popular area with lots of foot traffic. But by mid-afternoon on all three days, the park is jam-packed with people and it is a challenge to keep the crowd moving, regardless of where one is located in the park.
On the first evening, Hempfest throws a special party at the Hemposium tent for all speakers (and there are more than 100) along with their adult guests and those who have purchased VIP tickets. On the second evening there are no official events, but generally there are a couple of private, invitation-only parties. This year one party was sponsored by WA NORML,the Marijuana Business Association of Washington (MJBA) and O.penvape, a company that sells small pen vaporizers; and the second by DOPE Magazine and Dutch Master, a cultivation nutrient company. For most of us who have a booth at the event, we are exhausted by the end of the day, and can barely drag our ass to an evening party. But as you would imagine, these are terrific parties. Good food; great marijuana in all sorts of varieties, and an open bar. What’s not to like?
And because there are thousands of people in Seattle from the newly legal marijuana industry all across the country, there are generally a couple of late night private parties that one only learns about through word-of-mouth. Just the type of parties I would have enjoyed when I was a little younger, but generally pass-up today. I am an old guy, and my internal clock just does not accommodate a lot of late parties!
The Hempfest theme this year was “Time, Place and Manner,” focusing on the need under the new WA legalization law to limit one’s smoking to private situations. As their website states, the “Seattle Hempfest seeks to advance the cause of Cannabis policy reform through education, while advancing the public image of the Cannabis advocate or enthusiast through example.” They want to encourage responsible use, while celebrating all things marijuana-related.
This was further reflected in a new feature this year; 21 and older smoking tents (called Adult Lounges) at two locations within the park. Of course lots of attendees also smoked as they strolled the grounds, and there were no arrests, but it was nonetheless a thoughtful gesture by Hempfest (something they were urged to do by the Seattle police department) to include these fully-legal smoking areas this year, intended to avoid anyone having to worry about receiving a citation for public smoking and at reducing youth exposure to pot smoking during Hempfest.
By the end of the three-day event, I was exhausted and happy to head home to Washington, DC. But the make-believe world that is the Seattle Hempfest is an annual spectacle I look forward to attending each year. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere.
America has a major problem with prescription pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin. Overdose deaths from these pharmaceutical opioids have approximately tripled since 1991, and every day 46 people die of such overdoses in the United States.
However, in the 13 states that passed laws allowing for the use of medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010, 25 percent fewer people die from opioid overdoses annually.
“The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry, a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The shift showed up quite quickly and become visible the year after medical marijuana was accepted in each state, she told Newsweek.
In the study, published yesterday August 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers hypothesize that in states where medical marijuana can be prescribed, patients may use pot to treat pain, either instead of prescription opiates, or to supplement them—and may thus require a lower dosage that is less likely to lead to a fatal problem.
As with most findings involving marijuana and public policy, however, not everyone agrees on a single interpretation of the results.
It certainly can be said that marijuana is much less toxic than opiates like Percocet or morphine, and that it is “basically impossible” to die from an overdose of weed, Barry said. Based on those agreed-upon facts, it would seem that an increased use in marijuana instead of opiates for chronic pain is the most obvious explanation of the reduction in overdose deaths.
Not so fast, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House, a national nonprofit addiction treatment agency. He said that the immediate reduction in overdose deaths is extremely unlikely to be due to the substitute use of the herb, for one simple reason: Marijuana isn’t widely prescribed for chronic pain.
“You don’t have primary care doctors in these states [prescribing] marijuana instead of Vicodin,” he said. Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, it is only prescribed by a small subset of doctors, and, therefore, probably couldn’t explain the huge decrease in opiate-related overdose deaths.
Kolodny says the study results are more likely due to a host of factors. One example is differences in state policies to cut down on over-prescribing of opiate medications. Also, many people who overdose on painkillers are already addicted, and these individuals are naturally among the most likely to take too much, Kolodny told Newsweek. States that pass progressive laws to treat addiction may be more likely to lower their rates of overdose deaths; for political reasons these states may also be more likely to legalize medical marijuana.
“This is a good example of where policy change has gotten ahead of the science,” Barry said. She and Kolodny would probably agree on that point.
A Minnesota mother was charged with two misdemeanors after giving her teenage son medicinal marijuana to help alleviate pain from a traumatic brain injury.
Angela Brown said an acquaintance apparently reported her to family services after taking her 15-year-old son, Trey, to Boulder, Colorado, in the spring to buy medical marijuana oil, reported KARE-TV.
“Everything was great until I opened my mouth to the wrong person and I got turned in, and family services questioned my son at school, the cops came to my workplace,” Brown said.
Trey was struck in the temple by a line drive while pitching in a baseball game three years ago, and his mother said the teen has harmed himself and contemplated suicide due to severe pain.
An emergency room physician recommended the family trying medical marijuana, and Brown said the drug worked exactly as she had hoped.
“Trey would describe it as reducing the pressure in his head,” she said. “He didn’t have the pressure anymore and his muscles would calm down.”
Family services eventually dropped the case after talking to Brown and her husband, but the Lac Qui Parle County attorney decided to criminally charge her.
“I guess their definition of a good mom would have been a mom who sat back, let the doctors do whatever, and possibly let their child die,” Brown said. “I guess a bad a mom chooses to go find answers for her child and chooses to treat her child and takes his pain away, so if they want to call me a bad mom, then fine.”
Medical marijuana will be legal in Minnesota starting next July, and pro-pot advocates say they were “stunned” by the child endangerment charges filed against Brown.
“I can’t think of an instance where an individual has been brought up on charges like this simply because the effective date hasn’t come around yet for the law that has already been passed,” said Bob Capecchi, of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Let’s not forget — there is a medical marijuana law that has been endorsed by the legislature and by the governor.”
Capecchi said prosecutors have discretion over bringing charges in individual cases, and he said Brown’s case seems “tailor-made” to have the charges dropped.
The family has asked Gov. Mark Dayton for help, but they have not heard from him, and Brown said she and her family may move to Colorado after her court appearance in late September.
Via Raw Story
Via Toke Signals
When the antidrug educator Tim Ryan talks to students, he often asks them what they know about marijuana. “It’s a plant,” is a common response.
But more recently, the answer has changed. Now they reply, “It’s legal in Colorado.”
These are confusing times for middle and high school students, who for most of their young lives have been lectured about the perils of substance abuse, particularly marijuana. Now it seems that the adults in their lives have done an about-face.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and in Washington, and many other states have approved it for medical use. Lawmakers, the news media and even parents are debating the merits of full-scale legalization.
“They are growing up in a generation where marijuana used to be bad, and maybe now it’s not bad,” said Mr. Ryan, a senior prevention specialist with FCD Educational Services, an antidrug group that works with students in the classroom.
“Their parents are telling them not to do it, but they may be supporting legalization of it at the same time.”
Antidrug advocates say efforts to legalize marijuana have created new challenges as they work to educate teenagers and their parents about the unique risks that alcohol, marijuana and other drugs pose to the developing teenage brain.
These educators say their goal is not to vilify marijuana or take a stand on legalization; instead, they say their role is to convince young people and their parents that the use of drugs is not just a moral or legal issue, but a significant health issue.
“The health risks are real,” said Steve Pasierb, the chief executive of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Every passing year, science unearths more health risks about why any form of substance use is unhealthy for young people.”
Already nearly half of teenagers — 44 percent — have tried marijuana at least once, according to data from the partnership. Regular use is less common. One in four teenagers report using marijuana in the past month, and 7 percent report frequent use — at least 20 times in the past month.
Even in the states where marijuana is legal, it remains, like alcohol, off-limits to anyone younger than 21. But the reality is that once a product becomes legal, it becomes much easier for underage users to obtain it.
This summer, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released its annual tracking study, in which young people were asked what stopped them from trying drugs. Getting into trouble with the law and disappointing their parents were cited as the two most common reason young people did not use marijuana. The concern now is that legalization will remove an important mental barrier that keeps adolescents from trying marijuana at a young age.
“Making it legal makes it much more accessible, more available,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This is the reality, so what we need to do is to prevent the damage or at least minimize it as much as possible.”
Drug prevention experts say the “Just Say No” approach of the 1980s does not work. The goal of parents should not be to prevent their kids from ever trying marijuana.
Instead, the focus should be on practical reasons to delay use of any mind-altering substance, including alcohol, until they are older.
The reason is that young brains continue to develop until the early 20s, and young people who start using alcohol or marijuana in their teens are far more vulnerable to long-term substance-abuse problems.
The brain is still wiring itself during adolescence, and marijuana — or any drug use — during this period essentially trains the reward system to embrace a mind-altering chemical.
“We know that 90 percent of adults who are addicted began use in teenage years,” Mr. Pasierb said. “They programmed the reward and drive center of their teenage brain that this is one of those things that rewards and drives me like food does, like sex does.”
Studies in New Zealand and Canada have found that marijuana use in the teenage years can result in lost I.Q. points. Mr. Pasierb says the current generation of young people are high achievers and are interested in the scientific evidence about how substance use can affect intelligence.
“You have to focus on brain maturation,” he said. “This generation of kids wants good brains; they want to get into better schools. Talk to a junior or senior about whether marijuana use shaves a couple points off their SATs, and they will listen to you.”
Because early exposure to marijuana can change the trajectory of brain development, even a few years of delaying use in the teen years is better. Research shows that young adults who smoked pot regularly before the age of 16 performed significantly worse on cognitive function tests than those who started smoking in their later teenage years.
Drug educators say that one benefit of the legalization talk is that it may lead to more research on the health effects of marijuana on young people and more funding for antidrug campaigns.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids plans to continue its “Above the Influence” marketing campaign, which studies show has been an effective way of reaching teenagers about the risks of drug use. The campaign does not target a specific drug, but it teaches parents and teens about the health effects of early drug use and tries to empower teens to make good choices.
“Legalization is going to make the work we do even more relevant,” Mr. Pasierb said. “It’s part of the changing drug landscape.”
Who knew that losing at the Oscars could be such a high honor?
Nominees who don’t win an Academy Award at the February 2015 ceremony will walk away with a gift bag that contains a portable pot vaporizer for the first time.
The Haze Vaporizer by Haze technologies will be nestled in the gift bag handed to losing nominees for Hollywood’s top prize in the Best actor, Best actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director categories, along with other big-ticket items.
Last year, that included $85,000 worth of swag, including a $15,000 walking tour of Japan, vouchers for flights around the world, a luxury phone case, artwork and almost $1,000-worth of weight-loss products.
The gift bags have contained e-cigarettes before, but this is the first year they’ll feature a hand-held vaporizer. The $250 Haze is ostensibly marketed for tobacco consumption, but they’re much more commonly used to puff on marijuana without the harsh burn of a bong or the odor of a joint.
Of course, it’s too early to know who’ll be at Oscar night, but Haze CEO Taylan Saydar says he hopes one noted Hollywood pot smoker will be there: Kristen Stewart.
“She’s superliberal, young and she has a lot of followers,” he says. “She’s my favorite.”
The gift bags are arranged by Distinctive Assets, which for 13 years has handed out its “Everyone Wins at the Oscars” consolation prize bags. Founder Lash Fary usually hosts televised events showing off the gift bag swag before the ceremony.
“It’s definitely a big step in exposing vaporizers not just to our niche market but to everyone,” Haze spokesman Jason Azurmendi says.
Vaporizers are becoming more popular as weed (and tobacco) smokers around the country get turned on to their medical benefits (not damaging your lungs with harsh smoke, for instance).
Haze, about the size and shape of a small flask, operates differently from other vaporizers by offering two bowls. That lets users double up on whatever they’re smoking, or mix weed with tobacco; the spliff of vaporizer technology, if you will.
The company, which launched the vaporizers over the summer, wanted to get in front of the Hollywood market to gain exposure, Saydar says.
“A lot of organizations are trying to make people aware of the downside of smoking. Everybody is self conscious and looking for ways to still consume nicotine but in a healthy way,” he says. “We are trying to represent the high-end, high-fashion, highly technological product.”
Those gift bags Haze landed in are only getting more swanky, too: they’ve increased in value by $25,000 since 2009.
Via NY Post
An amazing study authored by professors D. Mark Anderson (University of Montana) and Daniel Rees (University of Colorado) shows that traffic deaths have been reduced in states where medical marijuana is legalized.
According to their findings, the use of medical marijuana has caused traffic related fatalities to fall by nearly nine percent in states that have legalized medical marijuana (via The Truth About Cars).
The study notes that this is equal to the effect raising the drinking age to 21 had on reducing traffic fatalities.
One key factor is the reduction in alcohol consumption. The study finds that there is a direct correlation between the use of marijuana and a reduction in beer sales, especially in the younger folks aged 20-29.
A drop in beer sales supports the theory that marijuana can act as a substitute for liquor.
The study also finds that marijuana has the inverse effect that alcohol does on drivers. Drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to make rash decisions and risky moves, whereas those under the influence of marijuana tend to slow down, make safer choices, and increase following distances.
Via Business Insider
A scientist in the United Kingdom has found that compounds derived from marijuana can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer that is expected to cause an estimated 24,000 deaths in the United States this year.
"Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive," study author Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist at St. George's University of London, told The Huffington Post. "For that reason, it has really good potential over other drugs that only have one function. I am impressed by its activity profile, and feel it has a great future, especially if used with standard chemotherapies."
Liu's study was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research. It was supported by funding from GW Pharmaceuticals, which already makes a cannabis-derived drug used to treat spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
The study looked at the effects of six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids -- compounds derived from marijuana that do not cause the "high" associated with its THC ingredient -- when applied alone, and in combination, to leukemia cells. Cannabinoids displayed a "diverse range of therapeutic qualities" that "target and switch off" pathways that allow cancers to grow, Liu told U.S. News & World Report.
Liu stressed to HuffPost that his research was built around the testing of the six purified cannabinoid forms -- not traditional cannabis oil, which Liu described as "crude" in comparison and generally containing 80-100 different cannabinoids. "We do not really know which are the ones that will be anticancer and those that may be harmful," Liu said.
During the study, Liu and his team grew leukemia cells in a lab and cultured them with increasing doses of the six pure cannabinoids, both individually and in combination with each other. His study says the six cannabinoids were CBD (Cannabidiol), CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), CBG (Cannbigerol), CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid), CBGV (Cannabigevarin) and CBGVA (Cannabigevaric acid). Liu and his team then assessed the viability of the leukemia cells and determined whether or not the cannabinoids destroyed the cells or stopped them from growing.
Although promising, Liu also said that it remains unclear if the cannabinoid treatment would work on the 200-plus existing types of cancer.
"Cancer is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that fundamentally differ in their cellular makeup, [and] which occur as a result of disturbances to growth controls," Liu said. "Chemotherapy works by disrupting these dysfunctional growth signals. Therefore, any cancers that have these profiles should respond to the chemotherapy. It just so happens that a number of cannabinoids can target these very same mechanisms that make cancer what it is, and so any cancer that exhibits these faults should respond well to cannabinoids. The flip side is, of course, that other cancers may not have these same genetic faults and so cannabinoids may not work as well."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 7.6 million people die from various forms of cancer each year worldwide.
When asked if smoking marijuana has the same or similar effects as ingesting the pure cannabinoid compounds he studied, Liu said he thinks it's unlikely.
"Smoking cannabis introduces a number of potential problems," Liu said. "First, the complex makeup of cannabis that contains about 80 bioactive substances means that the desired anticancer effect may be lost because these compounds may interfere with each other. Second, we see that delivering the drug either by injection or by a tablet would ensure the most effective doses are given. Smoking would be variable, and indeed the heat of the burning may actually destroy the useful nature of the compounds."
In 2012, researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that CBD (cannbidiol), a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer.
The National Cancer Institute has also funded some research into cannabis and cancer, including a 2012 study that looked at the effects cannabis compounds have on slowing the progression of breast cancer, spokesman Michael Miller told U.S. News and World Report. However NCI has not funded research on the effects of cannabinoids on leukemia.
Liu stressed that much work is still needed, and said that finding support for marijuana-derived medicines can be polarizing.
"Although there is much promise, I struggle to find enough support to drive this work on," Liu said. "The mention of cannabinoids can polarize the public, who understandably link cannabis smoking with cannabis-derived drugs."
Liu told the Seattle PI's Pot Blog that he hopes to start clinical trials involving humans in 12 to 18 months.
Via Huffington Post
Sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado reached a new record in June, with dispensaries selling $24.7 million worth of weed, reports the Associated Press. That marks a 19 percent increase from May. In the first six months of 2014, recreational marijuana sales in Colorado totaled $115 million, which has translated into $20 million for the taxman, notes Colorado Public Radio. Recreational and medical pot sales totaled a whopping $308 million during the January-June period. While medical sales continue to outpace recreational purchases, the trend could soon shift as more recreational stores open. There are around 120 recreational pot dispensaries in the state, compared to some 500 medical storefronts.
Meanwhile, stores sold a little less than $3.8 million of weed in Washington in July, the first month of legal pot sales in the state. That would translate into a little more than $1 million in cash for state coffers, according to the Associated Press. “It’s off to a healthy start, considering that the system isn’t fully up and running yet,” said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington Liquor Control Board.
Earlier in the week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released the results of a survey that revealed a slight drop in the percentage of teenagers who have used marijuana in the last month even as the number of high school students in the state who believe pot is harmful has also declined, reports Reuters. The percentage of teenagers who believe marijuana poses “a moderate to serious risk” declined four percentage points to 54 percent. Even so, the number who acknowledged taking marijuana in the past month declined two percentage points to 20 percent.