Chicopee Begins Process To Regulate Medical Marijuana Facilities
The proposal was brought up by member James K. Tillotson. The council voted 12-0 to examine the regulation in its planning, zoning and ordinance committees where it can be modified. The final version will later be returned to the council for final vote later.
“What we are concerned about here is where it will be located,” Tillotson said. “It could be in a place where we don’t want it.”
The state Department of Public Health announced it plans to approve final regulations for distributing medical marijuana on May 24 and could accept applications for dispensaries by this summer and fall.
Recently Attorney General Martha M. Coakley ruled towns and cities cannot completely ban dispensaries for medical marijuana but can adopt measures to regulate or postpone them.
In November, 63 percent of voters approved a referendum that allows people to purchase and use marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription. The law permits up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries or treatment centers that are to be spread throughout the state.
“I’m not in favor of this but the voters of Massachusetts voted it in,” Tillotson said.
Councilor Gerry Roy agreed.
“If you don’t want it in your neighborhood, don’t vote for it for someone else’s neighborhood,” he said when looking at the proposal.
The city’s proposed ordinance calls for anyone interested in opening a medical marijuana facility to apply for a special permit through the City Council.
It will require any facility to be located in a building that measures between 2,500 square feet and 20,000 square feet and restrict them from being located in any medical office where prescriptions are given.
It also has strict guidelines regarding where the sites can be located. A facility cannot be within 300 feet of a residential district or within 500 feet of a church, school, park, playground, play field, youth center or other location where groups of minors regularly congregate.
It also bans a facility from being opened within 1,000 feet of a school attended by children under 18, a licensed day care, a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility or a correctional facility or halfway house.
Medical marijuana facilities also cannot be located in any building with residential units, including motels and dormitories and they cannot be in a movable structure such as a van.
“It may be so tight it may not be able to go anywhere in the city,” Tillotson said.
Other councilors said they want to be ready when the law goes in and said other communities may be caught without an ordinance once the law is put into place.
Springfield has already started developing its ordinance and the Department of Public Health has been holding sessions about the law, including one that was held last month in Holyoke.
Marijuana superstore opens in Seattle
by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News
Green Ambrosia opened last Saturday and is the city’s biggest medical marijuana dispensary.
The opening comes as Washington’s Liquor Control Board and lawmakers decide how to regulate recreational marijuana sales in the wake of Initative 502, which legalized the use and possession of small amounts of pot.
“This could be the face of what I-502 enabled pot looks like,” explained Green Ambrosia owner Dante Jones.
Jones’ business has operated since 2011, but only recently opened a storefront. Inside, behind a bamboo wall, is one large glass table loaded with jars of marijuana. There are restrictions on how much medical marijuana a business can have on sale.
While planning for whatever regulations may come from I-502, Jones said Saturday he is not sure how licensing will work.
“We’re preparing for it,” he said, “As a business owner, the only thing I can hope for is that they’re going to continue the same set of standards (included in the initative).”
Public forums are being held across the state on how to license recreational marijuana. No matter what the state decides, it is still possible the federal government could take action against Washington State since, according to federal law, marijuana is still illegal.
Obama Standing by the people of Colorado and Washington
President Barack Obama says the federal government won't go after recreational marijuana use in Washington state and Colorado, where voters have legalized it.
Obama was asked whether he supports making pot legal, in a Barbara Walters interview that aired Friday on ABC.
"I wouldn't go that far," Obama replied. "But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you've seen the voters speak on this issue."
But the president said he won't pursue the issue in the two states where voters legalized the use of marijuana in the November elections. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
"... as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions," Obama said. "It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law, that's legal."
Marijuana officially became legal in Washington state and Colorado this month.
The Justice Department hasn't targeted recreational marijuana users for decades. With limited resources, its focus has been to go after major drug traffickers instead.
Nonetheless, the Justice Department has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington state. The states have expressed concern that the federal government might sue over the issue. Department officials have said they are waiting to see what regulations the two states adopt to implement the initiatives.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the president believes there are "bigger fish to fry" in prioritizing law enforcement goals. Carney noted Obama's comments were similar to his remarks about the use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
"But the law is the law, and that is why he has directed the Department of Justice to review these ballot initiatives and make some assessments about how to proceed," Carney said.
In the department's most recent statement on the issue, the U.S. attorney for Colorado said Monday that the department's responsibility to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act "remains unchanged."
"Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said. "Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on Dec. 10 in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law."
Walsh added: "Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses."
Gov. Gregoire meeting with feds over marijuana law
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire will meet with Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Tuesday to discuss the state's recent passage of a measure to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use.
OLYMPIA, Wash. —
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire will meet with Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Tuesday to discuss the state's recent passage of a measure to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said Monday that the meeting was added to a slate the governor had already scheduled in Washington, D.C., on other state matters. But on the issue of marijuana, Curtis said Gregoire wanted to meet with federal officials because "we want direction from them."
"Our goal is to respect the will of the voters, but give us some clarity," he said.
Initiative 502 passed with 55 percent of the vote last week. The measure decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6, but the state has a year to come up with rules governing the state-licensed growing, processing and labeling of pot before sales to adults over 21 can begin. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.
Home-growing marijuana for recreational reasons remains barred, as does the public display or use of pot.
Colorado also passed a measure legalizing the drug. Colorado's governor and attorney general spoke by phone Friday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with no signal whether the U.S. Justice Department would sue to block the marijuana measure.
If Colorado's marijuana ballot measure is not blocked, it would take effect by Jan. 5, the deadline for the governor to add the amendment to the state constitution. The measure allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and six marijuana plants, though public use of the drug and driving while intoxicated are prohibited.
Colorado's measure also directs lawmakers to write regulations on how pot can be sold, with commercial sales possible by 2014.
Gregoire went to D.C. on Monday for a meeting with the Council of Governors and Army Lt. Gen. Frank Grass at the Pentagon to discuss National Guard issues, and for another meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss plans to deal with a leak at a large, double-walled tank of waste at Hanford, the nation's most contaminated nuclear site.
Curtis said that the meeting with Cole was added to her schedule on Monday.
"Our biggest concern is that the state has a fairly big startup cost in creating the whole licensing and regulating scheme around this," he said. "We want some sort of clarity on this before we get a year down the road on the process."
Gregoire will return to Washington state on Tuesday night.
How to invest in legalized marijuana
Mark Twain is said to have remarked that a gold rush is a good time to be in the pick and shovel business. Investors may be able to apply that same bit of wisdom to the growing number of U.S. states that have legalized pot.
Although federal law prohibits the sale or possession of marijuana, Massachusetts last week joined the ranks of states — 18 plus Washington, D.C. — that allow its use for people suffering from chronic illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. In Washington and Colorado, meanwhile, voters passed an initiative to allow pot for recreational use. Those changes have kickstarted a small but fast-growing medical-marijuana industry, estimated to be worth about $1.7 billion as of 2011, according to See Change Strategy, an independent financial-analysis firm that specializes in new markets. In Colorado alone, sales topped $181 million in 2010, and the business employed 4,200 state-licensed workers, says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association , a nonprofit trade group that campaigns for marijuana’s federal legalization.
In addition to profiting itself from growing and selling marijuana, the industry benefits a slew of other businesses, such as insurers, lawyers and agricultural-equipment firms, experts say. “Call it the ‘green rush,’” says Derek Peterson, CEO of GrowOp Technology , an online retailer of hydroponics — products used in the cultivation of indoor plants — and a subsidiary of OTC stock Terra Tech TRTC +16.00% . “The industry is expanding, and there are all kinds of investment opportunities.”
For regular investors looking to get in on the action — and without having to actually grow or sell drugs — there are several small-cap stocks that stand to gain from marijuana’s growing acceptance. Medbox MDBX +41.18% , an OTC stock with a $45 million market cap, for example, sells its patented dispensing machines to licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries. The machines, which dispense set doses of the drug, after verifying patients’ identities via fingerprint, could potentially be used in ordinary drugstores too, says Medbox founder Vincent Mehdizadeh. Based in Hollywood, Calif., the company already has 130 machines in the field, and it expects to install an additional 40 in the next quarter. “The smart money is trying to help with compliance and transparency,” Mehdizadeh says.
Of course, investing in drugs the federal government still outlaws poses enormous risks to investors, says Sam Kamin, a law professor and the director of the Constitutional Rights & Remedies Program at the University of Denver. In fact, nearly 500 of the estimated 3,000 dispensaries nationwide have either been closed by the federal government or shut down in the past year, says a spokesman for StickyGuide.com , an online directory and review site for medical marijuana dispensaries — and yet another ancillary business that’s currently seeking investors.
That said, there are many companies that appear to be betting on a change in federal law. Steep Hill is a quality-control laboratory that tests medical marijuana to see if there’s any contamination from mold, bacteria or harmful pesticides. The company, based in Oakland, Calif., is also actively seeking funding of up to $3 million. David Lampach, co-founder and president of Steep Hill, expects a federal law legalizing medical marijuana within the next decade. Cannabis Science in Colorado Springs, Colo. CBIS -29.61% , an OTC stock with a market cap of $41 million, is developing marijuana-based medicines to help cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. “We’re at the beginning of the revolution in medicine,” says CEO Robert Melamede.
Other companies are creating a range of quirky products that allow people to use marijuana without smoking it. Medical Marijuana MJNA -16.81% , an OTC stock with a $69 million market cap, based in San Diego, Calif., offers more than 50 ways to ingest marijuana , from Dixie Elixir soda to Dixie Chill ice-cream and a range of Dixie Edibles, like chocolate truffles and crispy rice treats.
While experts say competition in the medical-marijuana business is growing fast, they add that there are also still plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs. For example, Troy Dayton, president and CEO of ArcView Group , an angel investor network for the industry, says demand has been growing for handheld tobacco vaporizers like those made by Ploom (which charges $250 for its “premium loose-leaf vaporizer”). “There’s a rush now to make the ideal vaporizer,” Dayton says. “There’s still room for a kingmaker in this space.”
In the meantime, at least one drug company is directly selling medical marijuana to patients around the world. GW Pharmaceuticals (GBP), based in London, markets Sativex, billed as the world’s first marijuana-based medicine. With a market cap of around $137 million, it’s listed on the Alternative Investment Market, a submarket of the London Stock Exchange. Sativex is currently sold as a mouth spray to help alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis in several countries, including the U.K., New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Canada, a spokesman says, and it is currently seeking FDA approval in the U.S. for use as a pain reliever in late-stage cancer patients
Question 3 seeks to legalize medical marijuana
BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER The Salem News
Advocates say the ballot initiative is aimed at granting legal access to a marijuana in a safe and secure manner, so that patients with chronic pain or other illnesses can benefit from its use and not suffer the stigma of feeling like criminals.
Some in law enforcement and drug prevention are concerned that the initiative would provide a backdoor supply from the dispensaries, bolster use and dependency among young people, and increase crime associated with marijuana trafficking.
“The issue is very important from a public health standpoint,” said Peg Sallade, coordinator for the DanversCares prevention coalition. As a public employee, she cannot advocate for or against Question 3, but she said she is allowed to educate the public.
One of the concerns is that if Question 3 passes, young people may no longer perceive marijuana as an illegal drug.
“When we call an illegal drug a medicine, it creates a false impression among young people it’s safe to use,” Sallade said.
Even if the state ballot measure passes, however, the federal government still considers marijuana illegal.
“Regardless of state laws to the contrary,” according to the website for the Marijuana Resource Center of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under federal law. Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance, meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett is strongly opposed to Question 3.
“Until the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society supports smoked marijuana as a legitimate medical remedy, and it receives FDA approval like all other medications, it is my opinion that the medical marijuana ballot initiative is nothing less than an effort to legalize a potentially dangerous and addictive drug,” Blodgett said through spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan.
Put forward by the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, Question 3 aims to remove punishment under state law for “patients, physicians and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana.”
Marijuana would be recommended for those with a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis “and other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.”
“Who determines who has a medical condition?” asked Danvers police Chief Neil Ouellette, who said his research into medical marijuana in other states found that the most prevalent use for it is to treat back pain.
“I have seen what substance abuse has done in a community, and it’s a dangerous road to go down,” said Ouellette, who said that as a public official he can speak “from a public policy perspective.”
However, proponents say the measure carries numerous safeguards, given the lessons learned in the 17 other states where medicinal marijuana has been legalized, said Jennifer Manley, spokeswoman for the Committee for Compassionate Medicine.
In the states where medical marijuana ran into problems, states did not repeal their laws but instead attempted to fix the system, said Whitney Taylor of the Committee for Compassionate Medicine.
Under the proposal, patients and physicians would have to register with the state. Dispensary agents and caregivers must be at least 21. Dispensary agents could not be convicted drug felons. Marijuana cultivation and storage must take place in locked, secured facilities.
Patients and physicians would also have to prove an authentic doctor-patient relationship, and there would be limits on how much supply — 60 days — a person could obtain.
Statewide, the number of medical marijuana treatment centers would be capped at 35, and no more than five would be allowed to operate in any one county. To deter someone from defrauding the system, the law also creates a new misdemeanor and a new felony, punishable with up to five years in prison for distribution, sale or trafficking, Manley said.
Former state Trooper Karen Hawkes, 45, of Rowley said she uses marijuana so she can lead a normal life free of pain after she suffered a stroke in 2005. Traditional medicines left her feeling tired, confused and living like a zombie for years.
“I was in a fog, and I was not there for my kids,” Hawkes said.
At the time of Hawkes’ stroke, her children were 3 and 4 years old. She tried a list of pharmaceuticals “as long as your arm,” but the side effects were worse than the pain, she said.
Hawkes wrestled with the ethical qualm of taking medical marijuana and searched for a legal pharmaceutical. She said the initiative would create regulations around its use as a treatment, making medical marijuana much safer.
Hawkes will not say where she obtains her cannabis, but she administers it using vaporizers or tinctures, the latter being alcohol extractions, rather than smoking it.
Ouellette points out that there is a drug called Marinol that has a synthetic form of THC, but Taylor said that THC is one of the most “psychoactive” components of marijuana, and it does not work for everyone.
Hawkes said she benefits from the various components of marijuana, not just from THC.
Marijuana-Like Chemical May Help Autism And Fragile X Syndrome Symptoms
The Huffington Post | By Kathleen Miles
Daniele Piomelli of UC Irvine and Olivier Manzoni of INSERM, the French national research agency, led the study, which could result in treatments of anxiety and cognitive defects in individuals with fragile X syndrome, the most common known genetic cause of autism, according to a press release by UC Irvine.
The study examined 2-AG, which naturally occurs in the brain and is in a class of chemicals called endocannabinoid transmitters. These transmitters allow for the efficient transport of electrical signals at synapses, which is severely limited in people with fragile X syndrome.
The researchers treated mice that exhibited symptoms of fragile X syndrome with novel compounds that correct 2-AG protein signaling in the brain. And the results were promising--the mice showed "dramatic behavioral improvements in maze tests measuring anxiety and open-space acceptance," UCI reports.
Piomelli said this is the first study to identify the role of naturally-occuring endocannabinoids, which share a similar chemical structure with THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. "What we hope is to one day increase the ability of people with fragile X syndrome to socialize and engage in normal cognitive functions," said Piomelli, a UCI professor of anatomy and neurobiology.
"It would be either an oral or injected drug but that’s at the very end stage of drug discovery, and we are at the very early stage of drug discovery," Kwang Mook Jung, a researcher on the study and UCI professor, told The Huffington Post.
In addition, his study of endocannabinoids could result in new treatments for anxiety, pain, depression and obesity, according to UCI.
Piomelli and the other researchers are not advocating giving marijuana to individuals on the autism spectrum; they are only looking at increasing the marijuana-like chemical naturally occurring in the brain.
However, some have advocated for marijuana as a treatment for people with autism, reporting the same anxiety-reducing effects. In 2009, Mieko Hester-Perez made national headlines for giving marijuana to her then-ten-year-old son with autism, Joey. Hester-Perez said that pot changed Joey's life. The mother said she tried countless diets and drugs on her son, with no luck, the Autism Support Network reports. Prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, gave him serious side effects, including facial ticks, seizures, liver damage and dangerous weight loss. With the marijuana cookies his mother gives him, Joey is able to calmly play with toys, smile and even try to talk, according to his mother.
When another mother, D'Ette Spurgeon, saw her 20-year-old son begin smoking marijuana, she quickly accepted it as she saw that it improved his sociability, vocabulary and calmed his anxiety, according to Marijuana.net. She said she was able to have her first conversation with her son.
However, there are strong critics of giving marijuana to children and young adults. Research on the effects of marijuana on autistic children is limited, and there have been studies showing possible negative effects of marijuana on young people. A study released last month found that teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ. Earlier this month, a study found that smoking pot as a teenager can double a man’s risk of getting testicular cancer. Other researchers found that people who smoke marijuana are twice as likely to become schizophrenic than those who do not, although it is unclear if it's because of a correlation or actual causation.
U.S. Medical Marijuana Researcher Dr. Igor Grant: Reschedule Drug
SAN DIEGO -- Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), and two other investigators published a study in the most recent issue of The Open Neurology Journal, which concluded that the Schedule I classification of marijuana is "not tenable." The study further concluded that, "it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking." The study urges additional research, but states that marijuana's federal classification and its political controversy are "obstacles to medical progress in this area." The federal classification of marijuana is based on the government's position that it has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."
CMCR, based at the University of California San Diego, has overseen some of the most extensive research on the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana in the U.S. The research center pointed out that, "Control of nausea and vomiting and the promotion of weight gain in chronic inanition are already licensed uses of oral THC (dronabinol capsules)," and that recent research indicates "cannabis may also be effective in the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy and muscle spasticity from conditions such as multiple sclerosis." The CMCR was established by the California legislature in 1999 and initially funded with a $1 million grant.
"Patient advocates applaud these findings from the country's top medical marijuana researchers," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the leading medical marijuana advocacy group in the U.S. "With the backing of such strongly worded recommendations, patients remain hopeful that the federal government will recognize the science and reclassify marijuana." However, discontent with simply waiting, ASA and other advocates filed a lawsuit earlier this year that is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit. The suit challenges a July 2011 denial by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of a 9-year-old petition to reschedule marijuana. That appeal will likely be heard by the D.C Circuit sometime this fall.
Over the past decade, the CMCR has completed 13 studies on medical marijuana, making it the foremost research center in the country. Unlike other marijuana studies, which all require the approval of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the CMCR conducts research on smoked and vaporized marijuana in particular. Through its research, the CMCR has found that smoked and vaporized medical marijuana can be beneficial to people living with cancer and HIV, as well as chronic pain due to a variety of health conditions. These studies have been peer-reviewed and published, but the federal government continues to ignore their findings.
Although the recent Open Neurology study admits that cannabis has "some abuse potential," the study also says its profile "more closely resembles drugs in Schedule III (where codeine and dronabinol are listed)." The study goes on to say that any adverse effects are generally "dose-related," are of "mild to moderate severity," and "appear to decline over time." Unlike other pharmaceutical medication, no reports of fatal overdoses from medical marijuana have been reported, researchers said. Ironically, the study comes only two weeks after DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart testified before a House oversight hearing and argued that there was no difference between harm from marijuana and harm from other Schedule I substances like heroin and methamphetamine.
In addition to the lawsuit against the Obama Administration challenging the classification of marijuana, there is a bill pending in Congress, HR 1983, which also calls for rescheduling. Frustrated by the federal government's position, the governors of four states (Colorado, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) similarly petitioned the Obama Administration in late 2011 to reschedule marijuana for medical use.