Releaf Magazine
7Oct/160

Damian Marley Is Converting A California Prison Into A Cannabis Farm

damien-marley-courtesy-dm-billboard-1548Damian Marley Is Converting a California Prison into a Pot Farm: Exclusive

Billboard - By. Andy Gensler - 10/3/2016

Bob Marley's youngest son, along with business partner Ocean Grown Extracts, has created a poetic metaphor and multi-million dollar business model in one.

Damian Marley has announced that he, in partnership with Ocean Grown Extracts, is converting a former 77,000 square foot California State prison into a cannabis grow space that will cultivate medical marijuana for state dispensaries.

"Many people sacrificed so much for the herb over the years who got locked up," says Marley, 38, noting the poetic justice of turning a prison that once housed non-violent drug offenders into a cannabis cultivation facility. "If this [venture] helps people and it's used for medicinal purposes and inspires people, it's a success."

By that measure, the prison-to-pot farm initiative is already a triumph. With their purchase of the Claremont Custody Center in Coalinga, CA for $4.1 million, Marley and his partners instantly relieved the economically-challenged Central Valley town of its roughly $3.3 million debt. The venture will also generate 100 jobs -- in an economically stagnant region plagued by an ongoing, historic drought and descending oil prices, both of which have damaged the region's traditional farming and oil industries -- and will generate an estimated million dollars in annual tax revenues for Coalinga.

The new business began "in a very organic way," says Dan Dalton, Marley's longtime manager. "Cannabis is something that's around Damian every day with friends, family and with his Rastafarian faith. We've watched people who have sacrificed their lives for it. That injustice has motivated us to be advocates as well as knowing that there are healing properties in cannabis."

Marley today also announced the introduction of Speak Life, a proprietary strain of cannabis he created with Ocean Grown. The strain is based on the company's lauded OG Kush, but altered genetically with the help of a Ph.D trained chemist at who helped cultivate the unique breed.

"The OG has always been my favorite," says Marley, who met with the chemist while making Speak Life. "When they introduced this strain of OG I really loved it and loved its consistency." The bud is a hybrid made of 70 percent indica and 30 percent sativa, and is hand-watered and trimmed.

Marley and his partners are prepared for the "green rush" should California's Proposition 64 -- which would legalize cannabis for adult recreational use -- passes in November, as the polls seem to indicate. And California isn't alone in reconsidering marijuana's legality, either. Voters in seven other states will choose whether to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana -- Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada could approve the use of recreational pot; Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota will decide on legalizing medical marijuana, which a status the plant has been assigned in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Marley's Coalinga facility will begin producing oil extracts in sixty days, and by this January will harvest its first crop. But Marley, like America, isn't limiting himself to California. Two weeks ago, in partnership with Colorado-based TruCannabis, he also launched Stoney Hill, a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in downtown Denver, just across from Mile High Stadium, along with a 30,000-square-foot grow space (pictured above), complete with RFID tags for each plant.

What makes Marley's new business ventures unique is that none of it involves licensing deals, which he's been offered in the past. In fact Marley and his team have invested both in TruCannabis and Ocean Grown -- the latter of which is run by Marley's manager Dan Dalton's brother and sister Casey Dalton and Kelly Dalton.

Marley is, of course, cross-promoting his cannabis ventures with his music. Stony Hill, the name of that new Denver dispensary, is also the title of his fourth full-length album, set to be released in January (just in time for that first crop from Coalinga, too) on Republic Records. Speak Life, the name Marley's new strain, also happens to be the name of a track from Stony Hill.

"I didn't know it would happen this way,"  says Marley, when asked if he'd considered weed's legalization to be possible in his lifetime. "This was definitely something we were working towards for a long time, before I was even born. There was Peter Tosh's 'Legalize It' and songs like that -- this is something our culture has been working towards. I was optimistic that it would one day be legal -- and now it is here."

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7Oct/160

Mass Cops Raid 81 Year-Olds House For Single Plant

Massachusetts cops raided an 81-year-old’s home to cut down a single medical marijuana plant

Police hit the home by helicopter — to take a plant used for an elderly woman’s arthritis.

massachusetts-legalization-marijuana

Vox.com- By: German Lopez      10/5/16

If you were trying to come up with a headline that perfectly demonstrated why so many people have turned against keeping marijuana illegal, you probably couldn’t do better than this real headline from the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts: “Raid! National Guard, State Police descend on 81-year-old’s property to seize single pot plant.”

The story is just as absurd as it sounds. On September 21, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police descended on 81-year-old Margaret Holcomb's home in Amherst using a military-style helicopter to chop down a single marijuana plant that they claim was in “plain view.” The raid was part of a broader operation in which police seized 44 plants in Massachusetts homes, with none of the property owners charged with anything — just their plants taken and destroyed.

Holcomb said she was growing the plant for medical purposes — to ease her arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. She does not, however, have a medical marijuana card authorizing her to grow pot, because she reportedly worries about the hurdles involved in getting a doctor to sign off on it.

Given those facts, it’s safe to say the raid did absolutely nothing for public safety. Stopping an elderly woman from taking a relatively harmless drug for medical purposes does no one any good whatsoever. As Holcomb put it, the raid won’t even stop her from getting marijuana; she said she’ll likely just grow another plant.

Yet police wasted time and money deploying a helicopter — likely paid for in part through federal funds, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette — to seize not just Holcomb’s sole marijuana plant but dozens of others across the state on that one day. They argue the actions were necessary because the plants were in plain view and therefore illegal, even though Holcomb’s pot plant was hidden away in her fenced-off backyard behind a raspberry patch. (It was likely detected with a thermal imager.)

There’s a good chance that after November, this wouldn’t be something police would do — Massachusetts is among five states that will vote on whether to fully legalize marijuana later this year.

The raid exemplifies why these votes are happening. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 53 percent of Americans support legalization, citing its medicinal benefits, its relatively low risk compared with other drugs, the benefits of regulation and tax revenue, and the current financial costs of prohibition. The raid touched on all of these issues, from seizing a relatively harmless drug used as medicine to deploying an expensive helicopter to raid an 81-year-old woman’s home.

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6Oct/160

Boston Dispensaries Remain A Tough Sell

bostonMarijuana dispensaries remain a tough sell in many communities

The Boston Globe - By. Kay Lazar - 10/03/2016

In Hopkinton, the Board of Selectmen proclaimed that a medical marijuana dispensary simply wouldn’t fit the town’s family-oriented image, and voted against a proposed store.

In Seekonk, town leaders fretted that dispensaries would bring crime and an onslaught of marijuana smokers to their community, prompting two companies to withdraw their plans.

In Southborough, selectmen faced intense backlash after saying yes to a dispensary, prompting passage of more restrictive new zoning rules.

Four years after Massachusetts residents — including voters in Hopkinton, Seekonk, and Southborough — overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana for medical use, dispensaries have become the ultimate not-in-my-backyard symbol in many towns.

Just seven dispensaries have cleared local hurdles and opened since voters backed medical marijuana in 2012. Yet the law put no restrictions on the number of dispensaries allowed after the first year.

“Virtually every applicant I have worked with has been rejected in one town or another. The smart applicant is working five to seven towns simultaneously,” said Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, a marijuana consulting and investment company.

Usually, a community’s veto of a dispensary is no more complex than this: Residents just don’t want a store distributing cannabis, Krane said.

“I have a lot of sympathy for these towns,” he said. “A lot of these towns are small, with selectmen who are . . . facing a lot of neighborhood opposition.”

The intensity of community resistance took the chairman of Southborough’s Board of Selectmen, Brian Shea, by surprise.

Nearly two-thirds of the community’s residents approved legalizing medical marijuana when they voted on the 2012 state initiative.

So Shea assumed residents would be in favor of a dispensary. He personally opposes medical marijuana, but said he voted in February to allow a dispensary to open in Southborough, figuring he was following the will of town voters.

“I have not received one bit of applause for my vote,” Shea said. Friends have told him that when they voted to legalize medical marijuana, they never thought it was destined for their town.

After selectmen approved the first dispensary, citizens banded together to make it much harder for any more marijuana shops to come to town.

In June 2015, people lined up at a medical marijuana dispensary in Salem.

Nichole Snow, executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said the local review process required in the state licensing system has left much of the state without any dispensaries.

“Comments by local officials are enough to discredit the medical marijuana program to the point that other companies don’t want to locate [in a town], and the patients are the ones ultimately losing out,” Snow said.

The state process for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries was overhauled in June 2015 by the administration of Governor Charlie Baker. Officials said the new system stripped away the subjectivity, secrecy, and inefficiencies at the state level that had mired it under his predecessor, Deval Patrick.

But it had an unintended consequence: It gave communities almost absolute veto power over dispensaries.

The revamped system requires each company that wants to open a dispensary to receive the blessing of a community’s governing body, typically the board of selectmen or city council, before a license application can move forward.

State records show that 40 percent of applications filed since the new system started are still in the phase that requires a local letter of support or, at the very least, a letter stating that community leaders are not opposed to a dispensary. Another 21 percent have not made it this far.

But the state Health Department, which regulates the program, said its overhaul eased the old bottleneck, helping more companies move ahead in the process. A spokesman said the new system “values the voice of local communities,” and was tailored largely in response to municipal leaders.

When Hopkinton selectmen voted against a dispensary in December, they didn’t cite neighborhood objections. Their concern was broader than that.

“Unfortunately, the town you are coming to — this just does not fit our self-image,” Ben Palleiko, the board’s chairman, told the applicants, according to the town’s videotape of the meeting.

JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

Chuck Grant displayed his medical marijuana that he picked up from a dispensary in Salem.

Nearly a year later, not much has changed, and no other applicants have applied, said the board’s vice chairman, John Coutinho. “I don’t want to speak for everybody,” Coutinho said, “but I don’t see the town opening that door.”

Valerio Romano, a Boston attorney who represented the company that applied in Hopkinton, said he has had several clients face similarly stiff opposition in other communities.

He blamed misinformation about perceived problems, such as crime and lax security, linked to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Concerns about security were raised by Seekonk selectmen in May, when Romano outlined plans by one of his clients for a dispensary there. And they were also suspicious about the state’s system for registering patients to use marijuana.

“I understand, 100 percent, the benefits [of marijuana] for individuals who are sick,” said Seekonk Board of Selectmen chairman David Andrade. “It’s the ease of which some of these cards are obtained, or prescribed, that I have the issue with, myself, personally.’’

As the selectmen’s discomfort with medical marijuana became clear, Romano ended the presentation, saying he would not ask the board to vote on the company’s proposal.

Romano’s client was the second medical marijuana company in less than a year to walk away from Seekonk.

 

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6Oct/160

Small-Scale Colorado Growers Finding Ways to Survive Against Big Business

Colorado Cannabis Industry Leaders Discuss How They Plan to Survive Recent Price Drops

As competition grows in the state, prices continue to plummet.

girlscoutcookies_gdhs_apr-2014dsc_0096_kr_large

MerryJane- By Tyler Koslow     10/5/16

Ever since Colorado decided to legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana back in 2014, the state has become the epicenter of cannabis cultivation. With state-backed regulation and a booming tourism industry, an increasing number of companies and growers are deciding to try their hand in Colorado’s cannabis market. On top of that, big businesses have seen the immense profit that has been generated in the state’s medical and recreational markets, which has lead to larger-scale agricultural grows than ever before. Competition has increased exponentially, and as a result cannabis prices have dropped significantly.

Those who are small-scale growers in Colorado, such as Anthony Franciosi, the founder of Honest Marijuana, have still found a viable market for organic and high-grade bud. Although major cultivators like LivWell and Native Roots have higher volume commercial grows, they use processes that are generally automated and non-organic. Franciosi, on the other hand, has found that his organic soil and careful attentiveness has kept his operation profitable. Still, he recognizes the shift from a boutique market to an agricultural one. According to the longtime grower, a wholesale pound of high-grade cannabis could net you $2,500 last year, but now he sees premium product going for as low as $1,500.

“The real deal is the crazy increase in automation and the big agricultural mindset that has come into what was a 100 percent boutique industry,” Franciosi says. “In the beginning, you had regular people getting licenses in the medical program and carving their own growing niches. Now that big business has seen how it’s going, investment dollars have rolled into these facilities, and you see big names buying up smaller grows and storefronts.”

There are a number of factors that Franciosi thinks set small-scale grows like his own apart in this increasingly saturated market. “It’s still a boutique industry, but that’s rapidly changing,” he says. “The people who are ahead of that curve, and can distinguish themselves with their packaging, the preservation, and in the overall brand image, are the ones who are getting the bigger dollars. But there’s so much of that out there that it’s very hard to do, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.”

For many, the competitive market and lower prices have produced a need for more efficiency in cultivation, which in turn has led to more opportunities for supply chain solution providers. Mike Bologna, the co-founder of the cannabis business strategy firm Green Lion Partners, started the company Natural Order Supply to provide supply chain tools that would make grows more efficient. As cannabis cultivation becomes a more commercial and automated industry, it has become important to implement effective grow systems in order to optimize the product while still reaching the current low wholesale price.

To Bologna, the price drop is a response to the perceptive shift of cannabis as a taboo product to an agricultural product. “As more cultivators open operations, improve their quality and consistency, and penetrate already saturated markets, we continue to see a ‘race to the bottom’ for wholesale cost,” says Bologna. “It is my opinion that this is a market correction to a more sustainable price for what is, at its base, an agricultural product. From a standard supply-and-demand standpoint, this price is likely more representative of future cost than where it was a year ago.”

One major way that cannabis companies have remained profitable while prices have dropped is by playing the “jack of all trades” role. Denver-based dispensary Medicine Man has been able to thrive off of self-sufficiency, producing all of its own product in-house. This has helped it keep prices low and still thrive, while retail stores depending on wholesale have struggled to keep up.

Unlike Bologna, Andy Williams, the owner of Medicine Man, feels that prices will get back to the range that they were before in the next year or so. According to him, this rising competition has hurt a number of cultivators and wholesalers that depended on the previous recreational market standard. This means that supply is actually will eventually start going down, which will eventually impact retailers who are unable to produce or obtain cannabis in a cheap and efficient way.

“In the next year, around 4/20 or later, you’re going to see cannabis prices back up to the $1,800 to $2,000 pound range that they were before,” Williams says. “Because retail prices haven’t come down as fast as wholesale prices, all of these retailers that came in and are benefiting from these low cannabis prices are not going to be able to compete with people who are vertically integrated or producing more efficiently, in terms of cannabis production.”

Although the recreational market is flooded with low-priced cannabis, it’s important to note that the medical industry is lacking supply. In his dispensary, which offers a different menu for both markets, medical cannabis prices have been much more consistent, and remain unchanged in light of the lower recreational prices.

“They’re definitely separate,” Williams says. “Right now, there’s a shortage of supply on the medical side. I’m constantly getting calls from people searching for medical cannabis. Most cultivations have predominantly switched to the recreational market because it’s such a big market. The demand side is on the rec, although right now you can actually make better margins on medical product.”

Colorado’s cannabis industry is currently worth over $1 billion, but with that lucrative market comes fierce competition and an increase in supply. Though larger and more agricultural-minded companies have come in to produce at larger volume, experienced market veterans have been able to sustain their business with effectiveness and quality. At the end of the day, these cannabis companies are basically playing by the same rules of supply and demand as almost every other industry, and they must prepare themselves for that delicate balancing act.

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6Oct/160

California Legalization Opposed By Local Growers

California marijuana legalization faces unlikely foe: growers

Reuters- By Rory Carroll    10/4/16marijuana-california

 

Hezekiah Allen is a third-generation marijuana farmer in this Northern California county, where the cool coastal fog pours off the Pacific Ocean, coaxing pot plants to heights of 20 feet.

The executive director of the California Growers Association trade group, Allen has long sought an end to what he calls "prohibition" and has looked forward to a day when he and the thousands of pot farmers here would no longer be outlaws.

But he said he can't bring himself to vote for Proposition 64, a referendum on California's November ballot that would legalize cultivation, sale and recreational use of marijuana.

While pot purveyors might seem to be likely Prop. 64 supporters, Allen's ambivalence is widespread within the industry.

The California Growers Association took a neutral stance after a recent poll among its 750 farmers, distributors and retailers found a split: 31 percent supported, 31 percent opposed, and 38 percent were undecided.

The larger Prop. 64 debate has focused on moral, social and health consequences of legalized pot use, but growers' concerns are more prosaic. Some fear going legit will mean too much red tape and burdensome oversight. Some fear an onslaught of big business - and competition that could wipe them out.

"I don't want to replace a criminal injustice with an economic injustice," Allen said.

Steve Dodge, the CEO of the Humboldt Growers Collective, another trade group, said he is voting against the initiative because it would allow regulatory inspections that some pot growers view as tantamount to warrantless searches.

"We are asking farmers to come out from behind the curtain, but not providing the assurances they need," he said. "This law is setting the state up for failure."

California, the sixth-largest economy in the world, already has legalized marijuana for medical use. It is the biggest producer in a U.S. market that includes 24 other states and the District of Columbia with some form of legalization. Brokerage Cowen pegs legal and illegal U.S. market at about $30 billion.

The approval of recreational use on such a big scale would be a turning point. It would more than double sales in California to $6.46 billion in 2020 from the $2.76 billion in medical use receipts last year, according to a projection by market researcher New Frontier.

Polls suggest the measures will pass. But growers' concerns show it won't be easy to move a multi-billion-dollar gray industry into the light.

Growers would face tax bills and the expense of improving their farms' ecological footprints to meet environmental regulations. And, after a five year grace period, industrial-sized farms would be allowed, a prospect that is expected to attract corporate agriculture.

Some growers believe going legit would be less lucrative than selling to states where marijuana remains illegal, a calculus that could drive them further underground.

"OUTLAW, NOT CRIMINAL"

Six hours north of San Francisco, old growth forests in what is known as the "Emerald Triangle" nurture vast marijuana production. Thousand-year-old redwoods have sheltered growers from raids by authorities since the collapse of logging here in the 60s and 70s gave rise to the illicit industry.

Wearing a sweatshirt bearing a pot leaf and the slogan, "I'm an outlaw, not a criminal," a black market grower tended to small plants bursting with buds raised in a room under high powered lights and the breeze of fans. The grower, who identified himself only as Jason B for fear of prosecution, said he wants to keep big business "out of our neighborhood."

"The reason I will vote 'no' on the proposition is that it will be corporate influenced and it would be a sub-par product," he said.

Standing in his outdoor grove of plants that tower above him, Stephen Dillon said the Humboldt Sun Growers Guild he heads is split over Prop. 64. Growers in the group also are concerned that it will open the industry to big agriculture, as well as taxes and penalties, he said.

Dillon acknowledged some illegal growers hurt the environment, draining creeks for irrigation, pouring pesticide-laden runoff back into the water supply and creating mountains of trash on their sites. Prop. 64 would allow the state to revoke the licenses of such bad actors. But Dillon said its environmental regulations could cost $20,000 to $100,000 per farm to meet.

DOUBTS IN HAIGHT-ASHBURY

Doubts are not confined to growers.

Patrice Scott is a receptionist for Green Evaluations, a medical marijuana clinic above Amoeba Records in San Francisco's historic Haight-Ashbury district, the epicenter of the hippie movement in the late 1960s that promoted free love, psychedelic music and pot.

Scott said she will vote against Prop. 64, viewing it as a money grab by state and local governments she fears will squander the revenue. She said the medical marijuana rules, which require purchasers to obtain a card from a physician, work fine.

"No one has a problem getting a card," she said. "This is just a way for them (government) to profit."

But opposition is not universal in the industry. Some, noting a glut in pot is driving down prices, said they welcome legalization if it brings new demand.

"It is just free falling," said Marion Collamar, a Humboldt county grower who supports Prop. 64.

The average price of a pound of wholesale cannabis has fallen from $2,030 in January 2016 to $1,664 in August, according to Cannabis Benchmarks, a wholesale cannabis pricing company.

Chrystal Ortiz, a small farmer and operations manager for the Sun Growers Guild, said she supports Prop 64 because it would eliminate or reduce most criminal penalties, as well as prior convictions, for marijuana offenses.

"Primarily black and brown underprivileged people are the ones being affected by the illegality of cannabis," she said.

 

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5Oct/160

U.S. Drug Czar Admits Government Didn’t Want Cannabis Known As Medicine

ryan_botticelli5_metU.S. Drug Czar Admits Government Didn’t Want Marijuana Considered Medicine

Merry Jane - By. Mike Adams - 10/03/2016

While it has long since been considered somewhat of a conspiracy theory that the federal government is purposely preventing marijuana from being researched for its therapeutic benefits, a recent interview with the Obama Administration’s “drug czar” reveals that the people’s paranoia is very real.

Last week, Politico’s Dan Diamond conducted an interview with Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, to discuss drug addiction at great length.

It was not until Monday, however, when the story began to pique our interest.

That’s when Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, uncovered a snippet of audio from the conversation alluding that old Uncle Sam has been holding back pot-related studies for years in order to prevent marijuana from being categorized as medicine.

“It’s a somewhat fair criticism that the government hasn’t wholly supported research to really investigate what’s the potential therapeutic value,” Botticelli said during the interview.

While the nation’s leading official on drug policy did go on to say that the Obama Administration has taken a number of leaps in recent years to improve the availability of research, his comments will undoubtedly crawl under the skin of cannabis reformers who have suspected the government all along for doing everything in its power to keep the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant in the dark.

This news comes just days after it was discovered by ATTN:, through a letter obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that the FDA does not exactly agree with the DEA’s decision to keep marijuana restricted under the confines of a Schedule I classification.

The letter, penned by acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, suggests the Department of Justice should consider reevaluating “the legal and regulatory framework” it uses to prevent marijuana research.

“[National Institute on Drug Abuse] points out that another potential area for review is the legal and regulatory framework applied to (1) the assessment of abuse liability for substances in Schedule 1 (including the comparative standard used to assess the relative risk of abuse) and (2) the assessment of currently accepted medical use for drugs that have not been approved by FDA,” the letter reads.

“While potentially daunting (depending on its nature and scope), re-evaluation of the legal and regulatory framework by DOJ/DEA and [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] could identify ways to encourage appropriate scientific research into the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana and its constituents,” it continues.

It seems while the DEA was busy blaming the FDA back in August for its decision to deny a petition to reschedule marijuana, it failed to mention that the health agency was essentially forced to make this move because of the eight factors the DEA has outlined for making this determination.  Ultimately, Ostroff does not seem to believe marijuana should be lumped in with drugs like heroin, but the FDA was still required to say the cannabis plant has no medicinal value based on the DEA’s "inflexible" guidelines.

Marijuana reformers hope the FDA’s letter is a sign of a promising future for scope of the nation's marijuana laws.

"This document highlights the great value in FOIA for marijuana journalists and activists,” Angell told MERRY JANE. “Now we know that FDA has been pushing DEA behind the scenes to loosen research restrictions like the Mississippi monopoly and the unneeded PHS review. Thankfully the Obama administration agreed and made those changes a reality. Hopefully they'll also pursue a separate scheduling determination for CBD and listen to what FDA said about how the criteria for determining scheduling might be too restrictive."

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4Oct/160

Connecticut Wants Researchers To Begin Studying It’s Medical Marijuana

cannabisThis New England state wants researchers to begin studying its medical marijuana

The Cannabist - By. Susan Haigh - 10/03/2016

HARTFORD, Conn. — The New England state is encouraging its hospitals, universities and licensed marijuana producers to embark on research that could improve understanding of Connecticut medical marijuana qualities, something officials hope will also boost the state’s biotech industry.

While there’s some research already underway in Connecticut and elsewhere, officials here hope the state’s initiative, which began Oct. 1, will lead to much greater exploration of medical cannabis. The proposals will be vetted by an institutional review board, approved by the Department of Consumer Protection commissioner and theoretically protected under the legal umbrella of the state’s 4-year-old medical marijuana law.

Researchers, they contend, shouldn’t be impeded by current federal constraints because of recent legislation that prevents the federal government from punishing states using marijuana for medical purposes.

“This is the first formal program that we know of that will provide the protections and the framework to be able to use the standardized product in Connecticut to produce meaningful research,” said Jonathan Harris, Department of Consumer Protection commissioner, adding how Connecticut is “probably the best-situated state” for such research, considering its medical marijuana program is among the most highly regulated. Only licensed pharmacists can dispense the drug to patients with conditions such as epilepsy and cancer.

Since 1998, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

The U.S. government still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, an illegal substance with no acceptable medical use. The Drug Enforcement Administration also regulates the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. Until August, it had allowed only the University of Mississippi to cultivate cannabis for research.

In April, a bipartisan group of congressional members, including Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, urged President Barack Obama to reschedule marijuana, arguing how it’s currently more difficult for scientists to study the drug than cocaine or methamphetamines. The DEA has previously denied such requests. They also urged Obama to allow researchers to use marijuana grown in the states and not just at the University of Mississippi.

“We need more research, and it’s going to take a joint state and federal approach to get researchers more interested in this topic,” Murphy said. “There are legitimate questions that need to be answered about the effectiveness of medical marijuana.”

The medical marijuana programs around the country have already prompted some state-based research into the drug. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are roughly 10 states, including a couple without medical marijuana programs, with laws allowing some sort of research. Some projects are funded through excise taxes or licensing fees. But Karmen Hanson, a program manager at NCSL, said some of the studies can’t really function because of concerns that participating universities might lose federal financial support by conducting research that could be considered illegal by federal authorities.

In Colorado, where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use, there are at least 10 state-funded trials in the early stages or underway. They’re tackling issues such as whether medical marijuana can help adolescents and young adults with inflammatory bowel disease to whether the drug can help veterans with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tom Schultz, president of Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions in Portland, Connecticut, a state-licensed marijuana producer, encouraged Connecticut lawmakers to pass legislation earlier this year creating the research program for state-based entities. He said his company, which plans to fund studies and provide product, has been in discussions with Yale University and other institutions. He said the possible topics range from what types of cancer patients might benefit from the drug to the ideal dosages. He hopes to bring a proposal to state officials by the end of the year.

“There’s a lot of work to be done on fundamental questions, like dosing protocols, which haven’t been explored,” he said, adding how the first state that’s successful with such research will have a “big advantage” over other states in expanding its biotech industry.

“It is not as if we are bunch of people sitting around, sort of getting high eating chocolate, saying, ‘gee, maybe there’s something new to learn about this stuff,'” he said. “We’re talking about relatively esoteric science here.”

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3Oct/160

Could Cannabinoids Treat Breast Cancer?

cancerCannabis and Cancer: Could Cannabinoids Treat Breast Cancer

Dope Magazine - By. Megan Rubio - 10/03/2016

Could cannabis cure breast cancer? Such a proposition may sound farfetched, but the few studies available indicate that while cannabis has not been shown to specifically kill cancer cells, cannabis use could indirectly assist with the many symptoms of cancer and combat the effects of chemotherapy. Cannabis has been used for years to treat symptoms and ailments associated with cancer, despite its Schedule I classification within the Controlled Substances Act.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women within the United States. Researchers are scrambling to find treatments for breast cancer as it becomes resistant to already established therapies. As it turns out, a recent study, published in 2011, concluded that CBD has been found to induce the process of programmed cell death in breast cancer cells.[1] CBD itself is not killing the breast cancer cells, but instead activates autophagy.

The American Association of Cancer Research indicates that, “Recent studies have shown that cannabinoids also induce autophagic cell death,” lending hope that there may be other cannabinoids besides CBD that could have similar medicinal effects. Autophagy is a natural process within the body that deals with the destruction of cells. Essentially, CBD induces the process whereby the body would destroy unnecessary or dysfunctional cells in order for new, healthy cells to have the ability to form. The research concluded in the results of their study, “The desirability of CBD as an anticancer agent, because they suggest that CBD preferentially kills breast cancer cells, while minimizing damage to normal breast tissue.” Can you imagine? A substance with the ability to target compromised cells.

Of the 483 known compounds within the cannabis plant, at least 100 of those have been identified as cannabinoids. A cannabinoid interacts with cannabinoid receptors, which are located in cells throughout the body. The two main cannabinoids receiving the most notoriety are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces a ‘high’ in users, and cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid often used by medical patients. Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body. The National Cancer Institute states that cannabis, “May be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.” Cannabinoids can, among other things, block cell growth, prevent the growth of blood vessels—which supply tumors—and have antiviral properties.

Both THC and CBD can be used to treat a variety of cancer-related ailments. While CBD is generally classified as more medicinal than THC, the application of THC cannot be underscored in regards to cancer. THC may not be as directly active in ridding the body of cancer as CBD, but it can still play a role in its treatment. THC can be helpful in relieving pain and nausea; reducing inflammation; and can even act as an antioxidant (American Cancer Society). Not only that, but smoked cannabis can also be helpful in treating neuropathic pain and can help improve food intake.

Besides all of the stated conditions that cannabis could treat, a factor not often given consideration is the relative absence of side effects attributed to cannabis use. While some drugs may contain warnings such as, “May cause nausea, vomiting, constipation,” there are other drugs that can lead to seizure, stroke, internal bleeding or even death. In contrast, the side effects of cannabis are minimal, including lower blood pressure, bloodshot eyes and muscle relaxation; with the most extreme side effects being dizziness, paranoia, or possibly auditory or visual hallucinations. Though any negative side effects are undesirable, the side effects attributed to cannabis are not physically harmful, long-lasting or detrimental to one’s health.

While there is certainly not an overwhelming amount of data supporting the medicinal uses of cannabis in treating breast cancer, the same statement could be made in regards to any medical condition. The DEA’s failure to declassify or even reclassify cannabis underscores what many already know. In continuing to ignore the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, patients are being denied a natural compound that could serve as a panacea.

But let’s not place all of the blame on the DEA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also states that they have not approved cannabis or cannabinoids for use as a cancer treatment. Despite its Schedule I classification, there have been two drugs developed based on marijuana compounds that have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting: dronabinol and nabilone. Of the clinical trials conducted thus far, results have indicated that both dronabinol and nabilone work as well as, if not better than other FDA-approved drugs used to relieve nausea and vomiting. Still, the FDA maintains that there is no indication that marijuana may be a safe and effective drug. The irony cannot be lost that while the FDA continues to deny the medicinal benefits of cannabis, they already have two approved drugs on the market containing cannabis compounds.

Cannabis has been used for years to treat chronic pain, seizures, depression, PTSD and a whole slew of other conditions. With recent data suggesting that cannabis could play a role in fighting breast cancer, there needs to be greater recognition of the potential for cannabis to be effective in treating other life-threatening illnesses. At some point consumers must decide to take action. Calls for more research fall on deaf ears. Instead of waiting on a call that the DEA is never going to make, states that have passed recreational and medical laws should pursue proposals and funding for research.

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3Oct/160

Jamaica Looking To Cash In On Cannabis

xxjamaica-web-master768Jamaica, Long Opposed to Marijuana, Now Wants to Cash In on It

The New York Times - By. Azam Ahmed - 10/01/2016

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — Jamaica has long bemoaned its reputation as the land of ganja.

It has enforced draconian drug laws and spent millions on public education to stem its distinction as a pot mecca. But its role as a major supplier of illicit marijuana to the United States and its international image — led by the likes of Bob Marley, whose Rastafarian faith considers smoking up a religious act — have been too strong to overcome.

Now, its leaders smell something else: opportunity.

Having watched states like Colorado and California generate billions of dollars from marijuana, Jamaica has decided to embrace its herbaceous brand.

Rather than arresting and shunning the country’s Rasta population, the Jamaican authorities will leverage it. Beyond decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana last year, Jamaica has legalized the use of medical marijuana, with its ultimate sights set on “wellness tourism” and the font of money it could bring.

And for good reason: Jamaica has one of the lowest economic growth ratesin the developing world, a striking contrast to the global success its citizens have enjoyed in the worlds of sports and music.

So, having done just about everything experts say a stupendously indebted nation should do — sticking to austere fiscal plans, adopting prudent macroeconomic policies and creating a friendly climate for outside investors — Jamaica is adding marijuana to its arsenal.

The new world order has brought together an odd assortment of characters. At a recent conference at a luxury hotel in Montego Bay, besuited government officials and business leaders mingled with pot farmers and Rastafarian leaders like First Man, who kicked off the conference with a speech on the global benefits of ganja.

“We are talking about a plant that bridges the gap between all of our relationships,” First Man, barefoot with a Rasta scarf around his neck, said to a packed room. “Our planet needs this relationship to happen.

As the head of a Rastafarian village in Jamaica, First Man was speaking at the first CanEx conference, a gathering of government and local leaders trying to figure out just how the country can most effectively make this about-face, without neglecting international law.

No one is really clear how the industry will evolve. Technically, the United Nations convention on drugs — which requires nations to limit the production, trade, use and possession of drugs — still prevails, meaning that outright federal legalization is, well, illegal.

But with the United States and Canada edging toward permitting the drug’s use, Jamaica wants in, too.

“In the past, the United States really left no room for maneuver,” said Mark Golding, the former minister of justice who developed the legislation to permit medical marijuana production in Jamaica. “But with the Obama administration creating an opportunity for states to do what they wanted to, it created a window for all of us.”

“Where the real market is, and where the real money is, remains to be seen,” he added. “We are all just preparing for it.”

For some, society is at the beginning of a post-Prohibition era, much as it was with alcohol decades ago, when global brands and untold billions were still to be made.

That’s still a long way off. Jamaica began legalizing the use of medical marijuana last year, but has so far granted only a few licenses to cultivate marijuana for research purposes. No one, as yet, has sold any product legally, but the government is gearing up to meet whatever market presents itself.

“Jamaica for so long has been associated with this plant,” said the conference organizer, Doug Gordon. “Now, it’s a business, an opportunity, one that can change the future of this country through jobs and income, one that can change our G.D.P.”

Of course, all of this has stoked fears of inequality for poor rural farmers, who have long been targeted for doing exactly what the country is now trying to take advantage of. Many fear that big money will come in, monopolize the industry and leave those on the margins exactly where it found them.

Iyah V, a Rastafarian leader who sits on the nation’s nascent licensing authority, summed up concerns by pointing to the many suits and relatively few Rastas at the conference.

“If we are not organized, and are not helped, the possibility exists for the ganja industry to become the next tourism, coffee or sugar industry, where our people are used as common laborers and the wealth is confined to a few,” he said.

Jamaican leaders say they are trying to heed the warning. Most agree there should be access to capital for small farmers, as well as breaks on expensive licensing fees and other upfront costs. But those, too, are yet to be determined. Even entrepreneurs agree that the playing field is not a level one.

Varun Baker, a well-traveled and educated entrepreneur, has started Ganjagram, an application where users can read up on the laws regarding marijuana in Jamaica. Ultimately, he hopes to make it something of an Uber for marijuana smokers, allowing clients to order and select products for delivery through their phones.

He is searching for partners and investors to help fund his ambitions, but the pitch remains difficult.

“There is lots of gray area,” Mr. Baker said. “People don’t really understand what the government is doing.”

Bali Vaswani, by contrast, is a prominent businessman in Jamaica who has created several brands, including Marley Brand Coffee on behalf of Marley’s family. He is already working with a research license and last month harvested the first crop of legal marijuana in Jamaica.

He is not only clear on the rules in place now, but is in a position to help shape those to come. He has ample capital to invest and business know-how, specifically in the marijuana industry in Colorado, so it is hard to imagine how he will not dominate the market here when it finally does open up.

“I’m trying to bring a corporate structure to this, and do my part to build Brand Jamaica,” he said. “I’ve been given a set of rules, and all I do is follow it. It’s not beneficial to knock the rules.”

To date, there has been a lot of knocking of the rules. In fact, farmers, Rastafarians and academics have joined forces to slow the transformation underway, fearing small farmers will be railroaded.

Kadamawe Knife, a Rastafarian academic, spent a significant portion of his presentation at the conference bashing the Cannabis Licensing Authority, the government’s regulatory apparatus for ganja.

“How do we make money on this? What is the growth strategy?” he asked, directing his questions to a member of the licensing authority who was awkwardly sharing the stage with him. “I have asked, and I haven’t seen anything.”

The licensing authority member, Delano Seiveright, took the accusations and jabs onstage with aplomb. Afterward, he said Dr. Knife had made some good points. But it did not change the fact that Jamaica was desperate for the funds that cannabis could provide.

To claw its way back to prosperity and pay back one of the worst ratios of debt to gross domestic product in the world, the country is adhering to a strict austerity regime set out by the International Monetary Fund, which has meant little public spending in the last few decades.

Now, leaders are desperate to find any means to expand the economy. And for some officials, earning the money quickly and efficiently means allowing the market to determine the winners, a strategy that favors those with resources.

“Ultimately it’s going to be hard to stop it,” Mr. Seiveright said. “And we don’t necessarily want to stop it. We have adopted the principles of capitalism, but we also believe that small farmers should have a leg up for a certain amount of time.”

Orville Silvera, the head of an association that represents about 2,000 marijuana growers and was formed with the government’s blessing, worries that big money will get concessions for huge amounts of acreage, boxing out the smaller farmers toiling away on a few acres.

But he is not opposed to survival of the fittest — so long as the farmers who have been growing their ganja in the shadows for decades get a fair shot.

“We want to build this from the ground up,” he said. “Let those among us who can do it expand.”

“The others,” he said, “can fail.”

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2Oct/160

Making Wine with Marijuana

wineMaking wine with biodynamically farmed grapes — and marijuana

Los Angles Times - By. Patrick Comiskey - 09/30/16

The road to California’s first commercially available pot-infused wine begins on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park in 2010. There, Lisa Molyneux, a Santa Cruz dispensary owner and pioneer in marijuana retail, is introduced to the therapeutic properties of an especially good bottling purveyed by Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, owner of Verdad Wines in Santa Maria. For Molyneux, an ebullient cancer survivor who became a grower and founded her shop, Greenway, to aid fellow survivors, that evening at the campfire got demonstrably mellower. By the next day Molyneux and Sawyer Lindquist were already talking about working together.

The result is Canna Vine, a high-end marijuana product that combines organically grown marijuana and biodynamically farmed grapes, made with the care and meticulousness of Opus One. Advocates include Chelsea Handler and Melissa Etheridge — in fact, Etheridge has her own line of wines, called Know Label, also made by Molyneux — and other celebrities have expressed interest in having their own versions. And it comes with a price — anywhere from $120 to $400 a half-bottle— that alone might prove irresistible to other California winemakers.

Pot wine, also known as green wine (described, for legal reasons, as a “tincture”) has probably been around almost as long as there has been pot and wine. In California its modern inception is usually traced to the late ’70s and the winemaking crew at Chalone Vineyard, which is situated in an inland wine region near Pinnacles National Monument, miles from civilization (and the arm of the law). There, growers could cultivate both ingredients and perfect their methodology in relative secrecy. Winemaker Billy Wathen learned his craft there, and when he moved on to Foxen Winery in the Santa Maria Valley he passed his knowledge along to colleagues and friends. In this way, Santa Barbara County became a hotbed for such practices; when asked who among his colleagues has made some version of green wine, Wathen tends to look askance, as if to say, “Who hasn’t?”

Qupé winemaker Bob Lindquist (who is Louisa Sawyer Lindquist’s husband) is one of Wathen’s acolytes and has himself passed on the secrets of green to others, such as Sonoma winemaker Pax Mahle, who became a practitioner in earnest after a “summit” of green wine producers in 2011 in Big Sur, which may or may not have resulted in naked fire dancing at the Henry Miller Library on a moonlit night. Conversations about green wine sometimes go on such side routes.

It became commonplace to see infusions passed around at parties and unsanctioned events, which is how I was introduced and where I learned (to my relief) that infusions of this type are generally more pungent than potent, since fermentation temperatures rarely exceed 90 degrees. This is high enough to release cannabinoids (one of many active agents in pot) but not high enough to “decarboxylate,” or release, the THC, the most psychoactive substance in marijuana. The result is a mellow, physical “body high” rather than a more disorienting mental high. This property, somewhat unique among the ingestible forms of marijuana, was what made it so compelling to a healer like Molyneux.

“What’s nice about it is how subtle it is,” she says. “There’s a little flush after the first sip, but then the effect is really cheery, and at the end of the night you sleep really well. It really is the best of both worlds; you get delicious wines with medicinal benefits.”

Etheridge, a cancer survivor herself, knows those benefits firsthand. “When I was in my deepest, darkest, last throes of chemo,” says Etheridge, “I couldn’t smoke or use a vaporizer — and I was never really an edibles eater; I didn’t want to be ‘out of it.’” Molyneux’s tincture seemed to solve some of these issues. “It lands in a really beautiful place.”

This coming harvest Sawyer Lindquist will deliver pressed-off juice to an undisclosed location in the vicinity of Santa Cruz (green wines are inevitably made and stored in other facilities, to safeguard a winery’s bonded status). Molyneux will wrap about a pound of cured marijuana in cheesecloth and add it to a barrel, where it will ferment, then repose, for a year or more.

Molyneux makes the wine, but both she and Sawyer Lindquist have explored blends of the two weed types, sativa and indica, to find a balance between uplifting and relaxing sensations. They’re also actively seeking to combine the flavors of cannabis and the flavors of wine into something more harmonious. There’s a strain of cannabis that’s somehow pineapple-scented, for example, and Sawyer Lindquist says it pairs exceptionally well with Viognier fruit. And the weed strain Molyneux calls “Cherry Pie” is quite compatible with Grenache rosé. Others feel it’s just fine on its own, provided you like things herbal. “It smells good, like fresh bud,” says Mahle. “I love the taste and flavors of marijuana, so to me it’s really delicious.”

California remains the only state in the country where such a product is commercially available, though only with a medical marijuana card. In the states where marijuana is legal, Washington, Oregon or Colorado, infusions are not currently permissible (a tacit acknowledgment that for the time being a product combining two controlled substances is beyond any agency’s regulatory ability). The California ballot initiative Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state, does not address tinctures but could change their status.

Wine is already highly regulated; who will regulate an alcohol + cannabis delivery system is still a matter to be worked out. To Molyneux, however, that prospect seems inevitable; she’s already exploring that prospective outcome with her lawyers in hopes of presenting it to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or TTB, the regulatory agency for alcoholic products) when the product comes under review.

As California flirts with legalization, as the substance in its many forms continues to occupy this weird nether territory between the legal and forbidden, more and more it seems as if pot is no longer merely a mind-altering substance. It has an ever-growing potential to alter the culture as well — including food and wine culture. Marijuana is already beginning to make inroads into food and drink outside of dispensaries — at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, for example, you can purchase a cannabinoid-laced cocktail such as the Stony Negroni (since there’s no THC, you don’t need a medical marijuana card to purchase it).

Molyneux employs bakers and cooks for her edibles program, as do countless other purveyors, and it’s not inconceivable that if and when the legal status of green wine is sorted out, winemakers will be retained in the same way. And if producers are getting $100 or more for a half-bottle, how can wineries afford not to get into the game?

In the meantime Molyneux, Sawyer Lindquist and Etheridge are unabashed in their desire to position themselves with quality products that take advantage of what they see as an inevitability. “Cannabis wine has been so effective as a stress reliever, as a mood elevator, and as a medicine,” says Sawyer-Lindquist. “I have no idea what the market will be like for it, but whatever I make I want to be safe, made from pure ingredients and, hopefully, delicious.”

Etheridge is even more hopeful: “I think that an herb-infused wine might be the sort of beautiful bridge to helps us to understand where cannabis fits in our culture,” she says. “Who’s to say an herb-infused wine isn’t just the medicine a person is looking for at the end of the day?”

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