Marijuana 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.
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.
U.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."
This 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.”
A company just had another successful test of a cannabis drug for epilepsy — and now their stock is spiking
Reuters- By. Natalie Grover & Ben Hirschler - 09/26/2016
An experimental cannabis-derived drug has successfully treated children with severe epilepsy in a third late-stage clinical trial, sending shares in Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals to a record high on Monday.
GW, which was founded in 1998 to capitalize on the medical benefits of cannabis, said it now expected to submit a marketing application for Epidiolex to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2017.
Its multiple sclerosis treatment Sativex, which is sprayed under the tongue, is already distributed by marketing partners in more than 20 countries, but not in the United States.
If Epidiolex is approved, it could become the first U.S.-approved prescription to be extracted from cannabis. It contains cannabidiol, a component of cannabis that does not make people high, and is administered as a child-friendly syrup.
Its commercial potential has attracted possible acquirers of GW, according to people familiar with the matter. Reuters reported earlier this month that GW was working with an investment bank after other drugmakers approached it to express interest in an acquisition.
Morgan Stanley analyst Andrew Berens said the latest positive trial results would further de-risk the Epidiolex development program.
GW has strong British roots, with a government license to grow cannabis plants for its medicines in southern England. In 2013 it also listed its shares on Nasdaq.
Investors view Epidiolex as critical to GW's future and hopes have been building following positive feedback from "compassionate access" programs involving hundreds of American children. Its Phase III trials, however, are make-or-break.
In the latest trial, both tested doses of Epidiolex were found to have induced a statistically significant improvement in reducing seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), GW said.
LGS is a disease that is characterized by seizures, impaired intellectual functioning, developmental delays and behavioral disturbances.
The drug had already succeeded in another late-stage study in LGS and GW has also announced positive results from a late-stage study on patients with Dravet syndrome, another severe form of epilepsy.
The company's shares rose as much as 16 percent to hit a record high of 811 pence on the London Stock Exchange. They were trading 10 percent higher at 770p by 1255 GMT.
Marijuana Could Be the Answer to Curing Alzheimer's Disease, Study Shows
The Motley Fool - Sean Williams - 09/19/2016
The statistics associated with Alzheimer's disease are downright depressing.
The disease, which typically affects the elderly and is characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive function, currently afflicts 5.4 million Americans, and the Alzheimer's Association expects the direct and indirect costs of treatment to reach $236 billion in 2016. Some one in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's disease, and within the U.S., it's the sixth-leading cause of death.
These statistics are even scarier when you consider how much researchers still have to learn about this disease. Though there are medications designed to slow the progression of the various stages of the disease, a cure for Alzheimer's disease remains elusive for the time being.
A number of big-name drug developers have taken aim at Alzheimer's, only to have their studies end in disappointment. Drug giants Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer teamed up to develop bapineuzumab, while Eli Lilly developed solanezumab. Both drugs missed their primary endpoints in phase 3 studies. It's difficult to get medicine through the blood-brain barrier, and the clinical success rate of Alzheimer's drugs is particularly low.
Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) is hoping to change that with experimental therapy aducanumab, which, in early-stage studies, produced reduced cognitive decline and substantial beta-amyloid clearance. (Beta-amyloid is a protein found around the brain that, when clumped together, can form plagues that block neurons and lead to a progressive decline in cognitive function.) Unfortunately, early-stage success stories often miss the mark in later-stage studies, so the jury is still out on aducanumab.
Is cannabis the answer to Alzheimer's disease?
However, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe the cure to Alzheimer's disease might come from a readily available substance: marijuana.
In order to test their theory, researchers at the Salk Institute modified nerve cells to produce high levels of beta-amyloid. Researchers then noted that these higher levels of beta-amyloid production led to the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins and eventually nerve cell death. The ongoing death of these nerve cells is what leads to the progressive cognitive decline witnessed in Alzheimer's patients. This itself was an intriguing finding, as it was long believed that an immune-like response, not the proteins themselves, led to nerve cell death.
Now here's where things get interesting. As the researchers noted in theirfindings, nerve cells in the brain contain receptors that are activated by lipid molecules known as endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by nerve cells. These endocannabinoids are believed to help nerve cells with their ability to send signals relating to appetite, pain sensation, and memory. Marijuana contains the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (more commonly known as THC), which is similar to endocannabinoids and can activate those same nerve cell receptors. In other words, the researchers at Salk Institute hypothesized that cannabis could block the receptors that lead to the release of pro-inflammatory proteins and prevent nerve cell death.
For their test, the researchers applied THC to nerve cells producing high levels of beta-amyloid. The findings showed that beta-amyloid production was reduced, eliminating the pro-inflammatory protein response and sparing the nerve cells from death.
Understandably, this study would need to be tested in a well-controlled clinical setting to have validity, but it nonetheless offers significant hope that cannabis could hold the key to curing Alzheimer's disease.
Before you get too excited...
While the findings from Salk Institute's researchers are eye-opening and exciting from a medical standpoint -- and they mark another victory for cannabis enthusiasts who'd like to see medical marijuana legalized throughout the country -- the reality is that cannabis' path to approval as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease could be long and difficult.
If you recall, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a rulingthat will keep cannabis designated as a schedule 1 (i.e., illicit) substance. Although the DEA appears to be relaxing its stance on marijuana for the purposes of medical research, there are no guarantees that access to cannabis for medical research will improve anytime soon. This also complicates matters for residents living in the 25 states that haven't legalized medical marijuana.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation on cannabis seemed to coincide with that of the DEA. The stance of both the DEA and FDA is that much is still unknown about the chemical composition of marijuana and that marijuana has no recognized medical benefits. There are also unknowns surrounding its safety that could make it difficult for any marijuana or cannabinoid-based drug to make it past the FDA.
Beyond these restrictions on marijuana's medical potential, the marijuana business in general faces some inherent disadvantages. Because marijuana remains an illicit substance at the federal level, marijuana businesses struggle to obtain basic financial services ranging from a checking account to lines of credit. Just 3% of the nation's 6,700 banks are currently working with companies in the cannabis industry.
Marijuana businesses also face disadvantages come tax time. U.S. tax code 280E prohibits businesses that deal with federally illegal substances from taking normal business deductions, leaving them to pay tax on their gross profits instead of net profits.
Ultimately, marijuana has shown flashes of medicinal potential across a number of disease types, including Alzheimer's disease. However, without controlled and FDA-approved clinical studies, the evidence needed to give marijuana recognized medical benefits just isn't there. Unfortunately, both Alzheimer's patients and investors looking to take advantage of marijuana's potentially expansive growth prospects will have to watch and wait from the sidelines.
How Cannabis Can Help Heal Broken Bones
Green Rush Daily - By. Casey Riley - 9/9/2016
A study released just last year reveals that cannabis improves the way in which the body heals broken bones. Researchers from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research took to the laboratory to examine how cannabis can help heal broken bones. We’ll give you the details of the study and its implications for the future.
A group of rats was divided into groups, and all of their femurs were surgically fractured. Each group received different treatment after the break.
One group received THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Another group received CBD or cannabidiol; while not psychoactive, CBD is another key constituent of cannabis.
The third and final group received just a saline solution. The progress of their bones’ healing processes was then recorded.
The researchers explain that fractures of the type made in the rats heal through the formation of a callus that provides the first bridge the fracture gap.
This callus acts as a scaffolding upon which the bone can begin to form. As the bone begins to grow over the gap, the callus becomes unnecessary and begins to shrink to make way for the incoming bone.
Four weeks after the fracture, the size of the callus was recorded in the three groups of mice. In those groups treated with THC or CBD, the callus was 26% smaller than the group treated with the saline solution.
In other words, the THC and CBD groups were healing faster than the saline group. Further, the CBD group had a roughly 50% stronger femur than the other groups at eight weeks after the fracture.
The researchers note that fractures of this type are extremely common, affecting people of all ages around the world. As such, the impact of the study are far-reaching and of potential benefit to virtually every person.
The study suggests that CBD, in particular, is an extremely effective treatment for bone fractures, as evidenced by both their ability to begin healing the bone more quickly, and increasing its strength later in the healing process.
In healing the bone more quickly, CBD acts not only as a treatment for the break itself, but also for the stiffness, pain, and discomfort associated with breaks of this type.
Importantly, the study ends with the authors stating that CBD is a safe compound in humans, and is very well tolerated; in short, there are virtually no risks in administering it as a treatment for bone breaks.
The idea that CBD is a safe medication has become more well known through the help of public figures like Nate Diaz, who was using a vaporizer to administer CBD oil to combat his inflammation recently.
The Final Hit
Research into cannabis as a treatment for bone fractures is extremely new. The authors made clear that trials ought to be conducted on humans to test the efficacy of cannabis, and specifically CBD, on helping to heal breaks. If clinical trials of this type prove to be as successful on people as it was in these rats, then we may soon see CBD become a staple in treating bone fractures in the future.
The 2016 Boston Freedom Rally Prepares For Question 4
ReLeaf Media - By. Mike Perry - 09/14/2016
During the third weekend of September, the 17th and 18th this year, the 27th annual Boston Freedom Rally will be taking place once again on the Boston Common. This year, MassCann will be putting on the most important and historic Freedom Rally to date. The Rally’s main focus this year is getting out the information and knowledge Massachusetts voters need to be able to answer Question 4 on the November 4th ballot-wether or not to tax and regulate cannabis within the state of Massachusetts.
The Boston Freedom Rally, also known as “Hempfest”, is the second largest cannabis activism gathering in the country and always gives it’s participants a fantastic, informative and safe weekend filled with positive uplifting vibes and thousands of likeminded people joining together to end cannabis prohibition.
Bill Downing of MassCann and organizer of the Freedom Rally is very excited about Question 4 being on the ballot and says attendees can expect “The biggest and best Freedom Rally ever” and told us to expect “beautiful music, beautiful people, beautiful smiles, beautiful glass, useful info, contacts, dancing, relaxing, eating and more.”
There will be two stages of music, speakers, and activism as well as a cannabis education village, vendors, and delicious food Saturday 12-8p & Sunday 12-6p.
The education village will be a main resource for all voters and legislators to be educated on eight important areas of concern so they can be properly informed for election day. It is with high hopes these discussions will teach something new to their visitors and sway them to be in favor of taxing and regulating cannabis in Massachusetts.
The eight pop up tents will each be discussing the important issues titled “Prohibition is Destroying Our Communities,” “Activism Helps,” “Repair the Community,” “Support Groups,” “Cannabis is Human Kinds Manhattan Project,” “Cannabis is an Essential Health Supplement,” “Recipes on How to Grow, Make, and Take,” “Your Own Medicine,” and “Spirituality, Peace, and Love.” There will also be a tent for panel discussions that will also be streamed live on masscann.com.
The music this year is enough alone to draw an incredible amount of people down to the Boston Common. Both stages will have dozens of artists in various genres performing the length of the Rally. There will be a good amount of reggae performances this year, as well as a “Rave on the Common” with DJ Julee + DJ Leah headlining on Saturday and Hip Hop legends Method Man and Redman will be the headliners Sunday. The lineup has something for everyone at every point of gathering.
One of the premier sponsors of the event this year is Greenleaf Magazine. We have Real One flying in from California. He is one of the top hip hop artists supporting cannabis,” said Brett Cogill of Greenleaf Magazine. “We are also very excited for the 65k people that will come out to support our cause. Boston George from the famous movie “BLOW” will be at our booth signing autographs as well.”
There will be countless vendors with booths all over the common promoting, selling, and informing visitors of their place in the culture and cannabis industry. There are always newcomers to learn about and old favorites to revisit. You’ll be sure to leave with plenty of new friends, contacts, and a great state of mind from being around so many likeminded people.
Scott Bettano, founder of Social High, is a major sponsor of the Freedom Rally this year and expects it to be huge and very important. “We are most excited about the anticipated turn out and energy of the crowd. We decided to get involved with big sponsorship this year for a few reasons. First off, Boston is our home and always will be. We very proud to be part of the Cannabis Culture in Massachusetts and the associated start-up community. That being said, this is an important time for not only the State of Massachusetts, but the Cannabis movement as a whole. We wanted to do our part in helping bring out the crowd to the Freedom Rally and educate as many people as possible on the benefits of Voting Yes on Question 4.”
Scott remarks, “We think it's important people know these benefits and understand their vote has the ability to foster positive change come November. We are very grateful to MassCann for allowing us to get involved to make that happen. With the board behind us and the team of Co-sponsors in Boston Smoke Shop, Xperience Creative and The Hardy Consultants, this year promises to be possibly the biggest rally to date!”
You can download Social High on Android or IOS to find a smoke buddy for this year’s Rally!
Bill Downing also gave us some useful tips for everyone heading into the city.
”Arrive stoned. If it's sunny, bring sunglasses and sun screen. It's always nice to have a blanket, but many just sit on the grass. The vending area gets crammed in the late afternoon. Get there early, if you want a more relaxed shopping experience. Booze on the Common is not cool. Bring something for the 4:20 celebration and share it. Boston cops can be a pain in the ass, but the Park Rangers are cool, for the most part. Parking is available under the Common, entrance on Charles Street (one way). The flat rate for Saturday and Sunday is $18.00. The height limit is 6’, 3”. The garage fills up quickly after 10am.”
Make it down to the Boston Common the 17th + 18th and come together to vocalize with thousands that we want an end to marijuana prohibition and we want a yes from all on Question 4.
Pot Breathalyzer Hits the Street
U.S. News & World Report - Steven Nelson - 09/13/2016
American police have for the first time used a marijuana breathalyzer to evaluate impaired drivers, the company behind the pioneering device declared Tuesday, saying it separately confirmed its breath test can detect recent consumption of marijuana-infused food.
The two apparent firsts allow Hound Labs to move forward with plans to widely distribute its technology to law enforcement in the first half of next year, says CEO Mike Lynn.
Lynn, an emergency room doctor in Oakland, California, also is a reserve officer with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and he helped pull over drivers in the initial field tests, none of whom were arrested after voluntarily breathing into the handheld contraption.
Two people admitted smoking marijuana within the past 30 minutes, Lynn says, and in a satisfying validation for his technology -- created with University of California chemistry assistance -- their readouts were much higher than the rest.
Other drivers, he says, admitted to smoking marijuana within the two-to-three-hour window that the device appears able to detect the high-inducing compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on a smoker's breath, and the test confirmed it.
“Basically everyone agreed because they were curious,” Lynn says. “We were not trying to arrest people. ... Sure, we could arrest people and people are arrested every day for driving stoned, but the objective was not to put people in jail but to educate them and use the device if they volunteered so we could get the data."
The technology, if all goes according to plan, will be welcomed by both sides of the pot legalization debate, those who fear drugged drivers and reformers outraged that pot users in some jurisdictions are subjectively detained and forced to undergo blood tests that don't prove impairment, especially in frequent users.
A drunk driver was arrested during field testing, he says.
All drivers tested were stopped by Lynn and at least one other officer, he says. Lynn declined to confirm if the officers were from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, where he works, and a department spokesman did not reply to a voicemail requesting comment.
None of the detained drivers had recently consumed edible marijuana, but Lynn says testing on state-legal medical marijuana users who ate gummy bears and a brownie revealed it works on them too.
Edible marijuana generally gives users a delayed high and appeared to be detectable for longer on a person's breath. Like exhaled alcohol the THC in breath leaves the bloodstream through the lungs, Lynn says.
There's a two-part testing challenge now: confirming with laboratory equipment that the device gives accurate results, and then correlating specific measurements (given in picograms of THC) with levels of intoxication, a challenge that will include sending stoned drivers on an obstacle course -- something already done informally.
Law enforcement departments are being enlisted to help collect data that validates the test. The police chief of Lompoc, California, announced his department's participation in a statement Tuesday and Lynn says he hopes to provide the technology to a half-dozen departments over the next six months.
After six months, Lynn hopes to widely distribute the device, for which his company will make inexpensive single-use cartridges filled with chemicals that "tag" tiny THC molecules to make them readable. An alcohol breathalyzer will be incorporated into the device to give it a competitive edge.
Hound Labs, of course, isn’t the only company that sees an opening as U.S. states increasingly regulate sales of marijuana for recreational or medical use, but it is ahead of the curve, beating another company aiming to introduce a marijuana breathalyzer, Cannabix Technologies.
A spokesman for Cannabix referred U.S. News to its latest press release, indicating the British Columbia-based company as of late July was working to reduce the size of its device, which the company has worked on developing with the University of Florida.
Cannabix President Kal Malhi said in the release the company is "moving quickly" toward finishing the product and offering it for external testing. The spokesman did not respond to an email asking if there's a target date.
Though breathalyzers are familiar roadside tools, there are other options for officers looking to rapidly test a person for marijuana or other drugs, including increasingly accepted roadside oral fluid tests or -- potentially early next year -- a futuristic fingerprint-sweat test.
Dr. Paul Yates, a forensic scientist and business development director at U.K.-based Intelligent Fingerprinting, says the sweat-test devices -- which can be calibrated to specific thresholds for marijuana and other types of drugs including cocaine and opiates -- can indicate drug use in near-term windows.
The Intelligent Fingerprinting device, distributed in the U.S. by Smartox, likely will be available early next year, Yates says, after an ongoing validation process contrasting results against urine and oral fluid test results.
Early real-world testing will be done at drug rehab facilities where its accuracy could be verified by comparisons against volunteers’ other test results, he says.
Duffy Nabors, vice president for sales and marketing at Smartox, says the company has received inquiries from law enforcement departments in California, Colorado and Texas interested in roadside use of the metabolite test, and he expects law enforcement will be among the first American buyers.
"We're not to that point yet, but we do have a significant stable of cities and counties that are interested in piloting and thus validating our product for roadside [driving under the influence of drugs] stops," Nabors says.
As with the emerging marijuana breathalyzers, the finger-sweat device will have to follow down a path already blazed by companies that offer roadside oral fluid testing devices to law enforcement.
Dräger, a Germany-based company that sells testing products including breathalyzers around the world, has been responsible for a million tests performed since 2009 with its DrugTest 5000 oral fluid antibody test, says North America bid and tender manager Brian Shaffer.
The DrugTest 5000 -- one of a handful of similar products -- indicates if marijuana or other types of drugs are present in a suspect’s saliva. The company counts the New York Police Department, the Nevada Highway Patrol and Oklahoma tribal police among its customers.
Shaffer says the test detects THC in a user's saliva for roughly 2-6 hours after they consumed the drug, though a heavy user once tested positive 24 hours later. The test only indicates the presence of THC and does not quantify the amount, though like the Intelligent Fingerprinting technology can be calibrated to a specific threshold.
"The most difficult hurdle these companies are going to face is you need independent scientific research or vetting.... this is a price we've had to pay," Shaffer says. "These companies are going to have to follow the same hurdle as well."
Shaffer says his company's tool, while not giving a precise measurement, can be combined with a trained officer's observations to help justify an arrest, after which more samples can be taken for precise measurement, as often is the case with drunk-driving arrests.
“The scientific community is going to have a food fight for the next decade over how these [THC figures] relate to impairment,” he says.
In the meantime, Shaffer says that courts are beginning to accept as scientifically valid his company's devices -- which like roadside alcohol breathalyzers generally are not used to prove intoxication in court. A California court earlier this year found the DrugTest 5000 was scientifically reliable in a vehicular manslaughter case and Shaffer says there may be a similar analysis on the East Coast in the near future.
Though courtroom validation is far off, Lynn says he believes breath testing ultimately will prove the most effective -- and fair -- way of showing whether someone recently has consumed cannabis.
"With breath it doesn't matter if you smoke every day, if you haven't smoked in several hours we are not going to pick it up, and it correlates with when people are most impaired," he says. "You get the inadvertent and really unfair arrest of people who test positive and aren't really impaired. What we're trying to do is balance public safety with fairness."
Smoking marijuana can lower your BMI, study finds
International Business Times - Janice Williams - 09/12/2016
Although "the munchies" is a side effect regularly associated with smoking pot, a new study claims that marijuana use may actually contribute to lower body fat, despite previous claims of appetite increase and weight gain.
Researchers at the University of Miami recently studied the link between marijuana use and body mass index (BMI) – a weight-to-height ratio that’s used as in indicator of obesity and underweight – in a nationally representative longitudinal sample. In their analysis, published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics on Thursday, researchers found that those who used marijuana had an overall lower BMI than those who don’t.
With the help of data from the National Longitude Survey of Adolescent Health, researchers found that females who use marijuana on a daily basis had a BMI approximately 3.1 percent lower than non-users. Male marijuana users had a BMI approximately 2.7 percent lower than other non-users.
Because of their findings, researchers are hoping to help remove the negative connotations that are associated with increased appetite caused by marijuana use as it relates to weight gain.
This isn’t the first study to hone in on the positive factors marijuana use has in regards to body weight. In 2013, The American Journal of Medicine released an infographic that also aided in the argument of weed versus BMI. In the study, researchers found that marijuana was not only associated with lower rates of obesity but they also discovered that marijuana use led to lower levels of fasting insulin and insulin resistance – both of which can result in hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia and other forms of diabetes. Based on those findings, the research team determined marijuana helped improve insulin control and regulate body weight.
The American Legion wants the federal government to change course on marijuana
The Washington Post - Christopher Ingraham -9/8/2016
The American Legion, a group representing 2.4 million U.S. military veterans, has called on Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and "reclassify it in a category that, at a minimum will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value."
In a resolution passed at the Legion's annual convention last week, the organization said it hopes that better research into marijuana and an official acknowledgment of its potential medical benefits will hasten the development of new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, ailments that have plagued veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Legion's resolution, published online by Marijuana.com, noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently approved the country's first randomized, controlled trial using whole-plant, smoked marijuana to treat PTSD symptoms. That study will be conducted by Sue Sisley, an Arizona researcher who tried for nearly a decade to get a green light for the research but struggled to find an academic institution to sponsor it. The University of Colorado ultimately agreed to fund the research.
During an address at the Legion's convention in Cincinnati, Sisley told members that "veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate” and that traditional medications didn't seem to be providing adequate relief to many vets suffering from PTSD.
The DEA recently reaffirmed its decades-old policy of classifying marijuana among the most dangerous drugs, citing its "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use." That position has faced increasing criticism from federal and state lawmakers, physicians,researchers and even some law enforcement groups.
Medical marijuana is extremely popular with voters: A June Quinnipiac University poll found that 89 percent supported the use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Aseparate survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 68 percent of responding members supported legalizing medical marijuana in their state, and 75 percent said that the Department of Veterans Affairs should allow medical marijuana as a treatment option.
A DEA position paper from 2013 states that "smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine, and it is not safe."