Releaf Magazine

Welp, Woody Harrelson’s weed dispensary application got shot down

Ryan Creamer
May 2, 2016

But, but...weed is for the people, it's the people's weed.

On Friday, longtime weed enthusiast Woody Harrelson lost a Hawaii-wide bid for licensing a medical marijuana dispensary through his company Simple Organic Living LLC. The State of Hawaii Department of Health opened applications for "a total of eight dispensary licenses: three for the City & County of Honolulu, two for Hawaii County, two for Maui County and one for Kauai County." According to Reuters, the state "did not specifically say why the actor's application was denied." Sure, he's not too upset, though. He'll find something else to do with all that would-be dispensary money.

Post to Twitter


GOP get over it

2016 RNC bid: Is legal marijuana Denver's elephant in the room?

By Jon Murray
Denverpost.comdrunk-elephant-570x356There's no escaping Colorado's status as the poster child for legal recreational marijuana when visitors come to town, even — or especially — when Denver is trying to sell itself as the perfect site for a national political convention.Take the initial site visit by Republican National Committee staffers in April, a precursor to a larger three-day scouting mission that starts Monday.

Over lunch, the topic turned to marijuana. The GOP visitors had plenty to ask.

But the questions didn't leave bid boosters worried that legal pot might hurt Denver's chances, even if Republicans are least likely to support such laws.

"They're more curious about how this is going to play out in other places around the country," said Pete Coors, chairman of the Denver bid committee. "We're the first state, and we're learning how to do it."

Still, Colorado's marijuana reputation isn't the kind of international exposure Republican officials are hyping as they seek the party's convention in 2016. Also in the running are Cleveland and Kansas City, Mo., which RNC officials and the Site Selection Committee visited last week, and Dallas, where they'll head Wednesday after Denver.

Two years from now, it remains to be seen whether marijuana will be such a big issue. Would Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert make jokes on late-night TV about wayward or lost Republicans wandering into pot shops on the 16th Street Mall?

But interest from RNC scouts has been inescapable, even if Denver boosters, echoed by a national political analyst, think cannabis won't play much of a factor in the RNC's host city decision, to be made later this summer or fall.

"You can't run from it, and we haven't," said Angela Lieurance, the bid committee's executive director. "You cannot pretend that it's not an issue or challenge for us."

Their message: It's the will of the people, and "we have very thoughtful, smart people dealing with this."

Besides, other states are lining up to try the legal pot experiment. Washington state's voter-legalized recreational marijuana sales start July 1.

"In 2014, it'll probably be on the ballot in Oregon again and in Alaska," said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who has tracked marijuana laws for years. "In 2016, it'll probably be on the ballot in California and Nevada, and possibly other states."

Meanwhile, even some conservative-leaning states have been taking a look at medical marijuana, which is legal in states where more than half of Americans live. Last week, 49 Republicans joined a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House to protect state-licensed medical marijuana businesses from federal busts.

Full legalization "is definitely moving a lot nationally, and it's moving a lot generationally," Kamin said, with only people in their 50s and older hesitating to support it.

National polls for the first time recently put overall support for the idea at more than 50 percent.

Still, among Republicans, a CNN poll in January found only 36 percent supported legalization, compared with 62 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.

As the national GOP considers where to nominate its next presidential ticket, "I'm sure (marijuana is) going to be a topic for discussion," said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of The Cook Political Report, which analyzes politics across the country.

That said, she pointed out that some Republican delegates may view it as a feather in Denver's cap

"When you're talking about convention delegates," she said, "they tend to be party activists. So you've got a fairly decent libertarian contingent who will be fine with it." And party leaders, she said, likely realize that marijuana's hot-button status diminishes every year.

Even so, most states that advocates see as offering the best chances at legalization via voter initiative may not put it on the ballot until 2016, a prospect that could force the issue to the forefront of national politics that year.

That's not a concern for Denver boosters.

And, asked about the effect of Colorado's legal marijuana on bid considerations, RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said, "This is not something the committee is focused on at this time."

Post to Twitter


Too stoned to drive

Marijuana playing larger role in fatal crashes

As more states are poised to legalize medicinal marijuana, it's looking like dope is playing a larger role as a cause of fatal traffic accidents.index

Columbia University researchers performing a toxicology examination of nearly 24,000 driving fatalities concluded that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010, tripled from a decade earlier.

NHTSA studies have found drugged driving to be particularly prevalent among younger motorists. One in eight high school seniors responding to a 2010 survey admitted to driving after smoking marijuana. Nearly a quarter of drivers killed in drug-related car crashes were younger than 25. Likewise, nearly half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were younger than 25.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 4% of drivers were high during the day and more than 6% at night, and that nighttime figure more than doubled on weekends.

Colorado has seen a spike in driving fatalities in which marijuana alone was involved, according to The trend started in 2009 — the year medical marijuana dispensaries were effectively legalized at the state level.

NHTSA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse are now in the final months of a three-year, half-million-dollar cooperative study to determine the impact of inhaled marijuana on driving performance. Tests observe participants who ingest a low dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, a high dose and a placebo to assess the effects on performance, decision-making, motor control, risk-taking behavior and divided-attention tasks.

The study is being performed using what NHTSA calls "the world's most advanced driving simulator," the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator, which was previously used to study the effects of alcohol on driving.

Post to Twitter


Pothole of the week

Florida man accused of assaulting brother with marijuana plants


Sheriff's deputies say a Lakeland man faces domestic battery charges after hitting his brother with marijuana plants from their yard.

The fight happened Saturday evening shortly after 31-year-old Rodney Brown and 33-year-old Jackie Brown got into a verbal altercation at the house they share. Rodney Brown was arrested on charges that include domestic battery, cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana over 20 grams.

Jackie Brown told Polk County Sheriff's deputies his brother uprooted several cannabis plants in varying lengths up to three feet and starting hitting him in the face with them.

Deputies say Rodney Brown allowed them to search the property. They found 10 marijuana plants outside and drug paraphernalia inside the house.

Rodney Brown was taken to jail and posted bail. It wasn't clear whether he has an attorney and a phone number was not available for him.

Post to Twitter


NORML Argues State Prosecutors Can’t Justify Police Searches Based on Smell

by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

NORML filed an “amicus curiae” brief with the state supreme appellate court on Friday, November 22, urging the court to enforce the limits on police searches set by 2008′s voter-initiative state decriminalization law, which eliminating police searches and arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Attorneys Michael Cutler of Northampton and Steven Epstein of Georgetown authored the brief.norml_remember_prohibition_

In this case a Boston judge initially ruled a 2011 police search — based entirely on the smell of unburnt marijuana — violated the “decriminalization” law which made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction subject only to a fine, thereby ending police authority to search or arrest the possessor. The state appealed.

Earlier in 2011 the state supreme court ruled, in a case in which NORML also filed an amicus brief, that police searches based only on the odor of burnt marijuana were now illegal. The court reasoned that smell alone did not establish probable cause to believe a criminal amount (more than an ounce) was present, so police had no power to search or arrest.

NORML asks the court to reject the Boston prosecutor’s claim that federal prohibition — which allows arrest and imprisonment for any amount of cannabis under federal law — trumps the state decriminalization law and allows police to ignore state law and use evidence from smell-based searches in state courts.

NORML argues that state prosecutors and police must obey state law and state appellate court rulings under the state constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, requiring the executive branch to obey the legislative branch’s laws and the judicial branch’s limits on police conduct under state law and the state’s constitution.

Finally, NORML argues that the state prosecutor’s position violates fundamental principles of Federalism, which limit federal “preemption” of state law only where state law “positively conflicts” with federal law. Since the August 2013 federal Justice Department Guidance memo to  federal prosecutors nationwide, recommending no interference with state laws legalizing marijuana in a responsible manner, no such conflict exists between federal and state authority.

Oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Craan is scheduled for early February, with a decision possible by June 2014.



Post to Twitter


Uruguay’s Marijuana-Legalization Bid Opens New Chapter in Global Pot Debate

By Noah Rayman and Jacob Davidson


Uruguayan lawmakers vote on a marijuana-legalization bill in Montevideo, Uruguay, on July 31, 2013

Legislators in Uruguay’s lower house today narrowly voted to legalize marijuana in an ambitious effort to target the illegal drug trade that has plagued the region. The bill, which President José Mujica has strongly supported, is expected to pass in the Senate in the fall, though a majority of Uruguay’s citizens still oppose the measure.

In an extraordinary step, the government will purchase marijuana from licensed growers and distribute it to pharmacies, while private citizens will be permitted to grow the plant for their personal use. Under the law, only Uruguayan nationals will be allowed to purchase the drug, and purchases would be capped at 40 g per month.

Still, Uruguay’s legalization bid is likely the most radical marijuana legislation a country has attempted to adopt. Some countries, like Argentina and Portugal, have previously decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Others deliberately turn a blind eye: the Netherlands tacitly permits its sale through a policy of nonenforcement. In the U.S., the states of Washington and Colorado have passed similar legislation, but the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal narcotic. Uruguay would become the first country (perhaps other than North Korea) to allow marijuana to be grown and consumed by citizens for nonmedicinal purposes, and also the first to legalize a full-scale marijuana industry.

The country may be a prime guinea pig for the legalization movement. Shortly after the bill was proposed last year, TIME contributor and former Latin America bureau chief Tim Padgett wrote: 

Uruguay over the past decade has proved to be one of Latin America’s more competent states. (A few years ago, in fact, a U.S. diplomat told me, “It’s a shame Uruguay’s Presidents don’t head a bigger country.”) It has one of the strongest economies on the continent as well as one of the highest rankings on the U.N. Human Development Index and Transparency International’s corruption gauge. And as the pragmatic Mujica pointed out last week, experiments like this are often best undertaken by smaller nations like Uruguay and Portugal, which can serve as more-controlled laboratories for larger countries to study.

Regional leaders, including Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, have called on the hemisphere to reassess its U.S.-driven policy on drugs, and efforts to legalize pot have gained traction as a cost-effective, alternative way to combat Latin America’s illegal drug trade. Padgett wrote:

That trend, aimed at depriving violent drug gangs of part of their narcowealth, reflects growing exasperation with a drug war that is fueled largely by incorrigible U.S. consumption but wreaks its mayhem mostly in Latin America, where Mexico has seen [more than] 60,000 drug-related murders in the past six years.

But the region has struggled to sell legalization to the Obama Administration, which has opposed it at home and abroad. In May, Padgett reported on a study from the Organization of American States — a Washington, D.C.–based organization dedicated to regional cooperation — that urged the White House to warm to the legalization movement in South America. The 400-page, $2 million report concludes that the hemisphere is leaning “toward decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale and use of marijuana. Sooner or later, decisions in this area will need to be taken.”




Post to Twitter


Rise of the Warrior Cop

Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?


Daily Republic/Associated Press

By Radley Balko

On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart's former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.

The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.

The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart's basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart's father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.

Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.

The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to "clear" a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

Today the U.S. has thousands of SWAT teams. A team prepares to enter a house in Vallejo, Calif., on March 20, above.

The country's first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education's SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.

Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe's emperors and monarchs.

The idea for the first SWAT team in Los Angeles arose during the domestic strife and civil unrest of the mid-1960s. Daryl Gates, then an inspector with the Los Angeles Police Department, had grown frustrated with his department's inability to respond effectively to incidents like the 1965 Watts riots. So his thoughts turned to the military. He was drawn in particular to Marine Special Forces and began to envision an elite group of police officers who could respond in a similar manner to dangerous domestic disturbances.

Standard-Examiner/Associated Pres

Standard-Examiner/Associated Press - When A strike force raided the home of Matthew David Stewart, one officer was killed.

Mr. Gates initially had difficulty getting his idea accepted. Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker thought the concept risked a breach in the divide between the military and law enforcement. But with the arrival of a new chief, Thomas Reddin, in 1966, Mr. Gates got the green light to start training a unit. By 1969, his SWAT team was ready for its maiden raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.

At about the same time, President Richard Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in this campaign was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.

Over the next several years, stories emerged of federal agents breaking down the doors of private homes (often without a warrant) and terrorizing innocent citizens and families. Congress repealed the no-knock law in 1974, but the policy would soon make a comeback (without congressional authorization).

During the Reagan administration, SWAT-team methods converged with the drug war. By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.

Advocates of these tactics said that drug dealers were acquiring ever bigger weapons and the police needed to stay a step ahead in the arms race. There were indeed a few high-profile incidents in which police were outgunned, but no data exist suggesting that it was a widespread problem. A study done in 1991 by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute found that less than one-eighth of 1% of homicides in the U.S. were committed with a military-grade weapon. Subsequent studies by the Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004 came to similar conclusions: The overwhelming majority of serious crimes are committed with handguns, and not particularly powerful ones.

The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.

The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.

In 2006, 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Va., SWAT officer. The investigation began when an undercover detective overheard Mr. Culosi wagering on college football games with some buddies at a bar. The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident. Mr. Culosi's family suspects the officer saw Mr. Culosi reaching for his cellphone and thought he had a gun.

Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.

Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.

In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn't a suspect in the investigation.

What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.

Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."

The motivation of the average American cop should not focus on just making it to the end of his shift. The LAPD may have given us the first SWAT team, but its motto is still exactly the right ideal for American police officers: To protect and serve.

SWAT teams have their place, of course, but they should be saved for those relatively rare situations when police-initiated violence is the only hope to prevent the loss of life. They certainly have no place as modern-day vice squads.

Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force.

In this very different view of policing, cops walk beats, interact with citizens and consider themselves part of the neighborhoods they patrol—and therefore have a stake in those communities. It's all about a baton-twirling "Officer Friendly" rather than a Taser-toting RoboCop.

Mr. Balko is the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," published this month by PublicAffairs.


Via -

Post to Twitter


Relief elusive for N.J.’s youngest medical marijuana patient

By Susan K. Livio

Two-year-old Vivian Wilson sleeps with a heart and oxygen monitor attached to her toe. When she wakes up, the toddler must wear an eye patch and be kept from direct sunlight. An overnight bag, oxygen tanks and other medical equipment are stacked behind the sofa.

Vivian is diagnosed with a rare and severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

These are a few of the ways her parents relentlessly manage everything that comes into contact with their youngest daughter, who suffered her first seizure when she was 2 months old.

None of it is enough. Medications help, as does a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet — every meal weighed to a 10th of a gram. But only so much.

Vivian’s parents, Brian and Meghan Wilson, enrolled her in New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana program in desperation, hoping that a strain of pot that has stopped most seizures in a small but growing number of children in Colorado and California could help her.

But before her registration card arrived in February, the couple said they figured out the state’s restrictive law and medical community’s unwillingness to participate in the program is preventing any minor from getting help.

Meghan Wilson said she has been writing to and calling lawmakers to explain her daughter’s condition and to ask them to relax some of the medical marijuana program restrictions for the few children who may need it.

“All you need to do is see Vivian have one seizure and you are open to anything,” she said.

“The state says the (medical marijuana) program is active, but it’s really not,” she said, noting only about 130 of 900 registered patients have been called in to buy marijuana from the one operating dispensary because supply is scarce.

“When someone with cancer can’t even get what the state has said they need, then Vivian is probably five years away from getting what she needs.”
“I am not going to stop fighting for her,” she added. I’m fighting so she can have a childhood.”

The law requires three physicians — a pediatrician, a prescribing physician and a psychiatrist — to recommend a child for the program. The Wilsons are still looking for a psychiatrist.

A Rutherford doctor who said he has recommended three children to the program said state health officials have asked him to hold off on making any new recommendations until other willing specialists can be found. “I am actively looking,” said Anthony Anzalone, who says his practice has helped enroll 90 patients.

Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd’s spokeswoman Donna Leusner declined to comment.

If the Wilsons clear that hurdle, they’ll have to overcome other legal restrictions on what growers may produce.

They want to find a grower willing to cultivate and produce in edible form a strain of marijuana low in psychoactive properties, or what gives patients that high feeling, and high in cannabidiol, another chemical compound.

Dravet patients out West are having success with “Charlotte’s Web,” a strain named after the first child who tried it.

The dilemma is, aside from lozenges, state law prohibits the sale of edible pot products. And with New Jersey growers limited to producing three strains, devoting one that only a small number of patients may want may not be a good business decision, Meghan Wilson said.

When the Wilsons tried to enlist the help from some physicians in the past, one reacted with disgust. Another dismissed their request immediately, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position against medical marijuana.

“People just don’t like to hear about marijuana and kids,” said Brian Wilson, 39, a technical consultant to a software company. “It kills me when people say, ‘Oh, we don’t know the side effects and it kills brain cells.’ Well, she’s already killed brain cells on these (prescription) drugs. The seizures have killed brain cells.”

The Wilsons are banking on a long-shot, untested remedy outside the scope of accepted medicine.

Vivian’s neurologist, a national expert in pediatric epilepsy, thinks it’s worth investigating.

Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University and Saint Barnabas Epilepsy Center, said he believes cannabis can play a role in helping children with epilepsy.

He and the British company GW Pharmaceuticals expect a response from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this summer to their request to use cannabinoids, an active ingredient in marijuana, “as a compassionate drug in a limited number of patients whose seizures are not controlled with current medications.”

Devinsky said he’s not familiar with Charlotte’s Web. “But I have spoken to some parents from Colorado and California, and believe there is enough evidence from animal studies and anecdotal patient stories to justify more systematic study.”

As long as the federal government deems marijuana illegal with no medically beneficial use, research money will remain scarce.

So will physician interest. Larry Downs, executive director of the Medical Society of New Jersey, a physician lobbying group, said the medical marijuana program is not generating a lot of interest.

“A lot (of doctors) won’t even consider it, there is still a big research void,” he said.

Innovation is left to trial and error of cultivators like the Stanley Brothers, a Colorado Springs, Co., company. They developed Charlotte’s Web two years ago after meeting with Charlotte’s mother, Paige Figi, said Amanda Stanley, the wife of grower Joel Stanley.

He also runs the nonprofit Realm of Caring, which links families with low-cost marijuana capsules high in cannabinoids, which provide some of the helpful benefits.

“We don’t have any research money. We are a nonprofit and it’s been through our own research with experience with patients we developed Charlotte’s Web,” Stanley said. “Charlotte was our first patient, and within seven days she was seizure free.”

Figi and her daughter appear in a YouTube video laughing and playing — two things that never would have been possible before she started taking the drug, the mother said.

“We have our daughter back. She has her life back,” Figi said in the video.

“Honestly, we don’t know why it works,” Stanley said. “But our patients have had incredible results.”

One frightening episode taught the Wilsons they couldn’t rely on medication alone to keep Vivian alive and healthy.

It was at her first birthday party in April 2012. Minutes after she had gleefully dug her plump fists into her birthday cake, Vivian began to shake violently and struggled to breathe. Paramedics had difficulty opening up her airway. She spent eight days in the hospital.

Her parents and doctors put her on a physician-monitored low-carbohydrate diet consisting mostly of cheese, eggs, butter, oils, cream, avocado and a limited amount of fruits and vegetables. Devinsky, Vivian’s neurologist, said the high-fat diet “changes brain electricity in a positive way” for epilepsy patients.

Her parents hide or remove anything with stripes or brightly colored designs in their home or wardrobes; the patterns transfix her and send her into a seizure.

Wearing an eye patch has dramatically reduced the frequency of her seizures, and the sugar-controlling diet has allowed Vivian to drop from four medications to two, the Wilsons said.

“The first time we tried the patch on the recommendation of some of the moms on our Facebook support group, she had the biggest smile on her face all day. I think her brain felt quiet for the first time.”

But none of these changes go far enough to give Vivian a shot at leading a healthier, happier life, her parents say.

“Developmentally, Vivian is like a 1-year-old — she doesn’t talk, she can’t run, she kind of walks like a little baby zombie,” said Meghan Wilson, 34, a clinical study manager for a pharmaceutical company.

Her 3½-year-old sister, Adele, who is there for Vivian with a blanket and a gentle hug, is suffering too because the sisters can’t share many activities.

The Wilsons have considered moving to Colorado, but the born-and-bred New Jerseyans would rather remain close to their families. They are determined to make a case that the state medical marijuana law should change.

It’s not clear how many families want their children to participate in the state’s 5-month-old medical marijuana program. Leusner, the spokeswoman for Health Commissioner O’Dowd, declined to say how many of the 912 registered patients are under 18.

Joe Stevens, co-founder of Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, the lone medical marijuana dispensary in the state, said none of his 124 clients is a minor.

State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) a sponsor of the medicinal marijuana law, said he wasn’t aware families were having trouble getting help, but he’s not surprised, either.

The first draft didn’t allow minors to participate at all. He succeeded in including children in a later draft, “but we had to keep making compromises.”
“It was the best law we could get under the circumstances,” he said.

Gusciora said he would ask O’Dowd to get involved “by putting together a team of family medical doctors that could address this.”

Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), the Wilsons’ district representative, said she is willing to go a step farther.

“I am prepared to offer amendments to the law. But you and I both know the governor has been very opposed to the whole issue, so that is certainly a barrier,” Stender said. “But this is very compelling and heartbreaking. I told Mrs. Wilson as her assemblywoman I would do what I could to help her daughter.”



Post to Twitter


Massachusetts MMJ regulations; Less than ReaLisTic…

Proposed MA DPH regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers

Posted by via

To:          Massachusetts Department of Public Health

From:     Andy Gaus

Re:         Proposed regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers

Thank you for providing this forum to comment on the proposed DPH regulations on medical marijuana.

Two provisions in particular appear to make it virtually impossible for caregivers to provide the marijuana patients need while dispensaries are slowly organizing themselves:

1) Each caregiver must provide marijuana for only one patient.

2) The caregiver is not supposed to receive any compensation whatever from the patient for providing the marijuana.

Put these two provisions together, and very few people can practically step forward and become caregivers.

Bear in mind that growing marijuana indoors requires investing several hundred dollars in equipment to get started, paying high electrical bills in the ensuing months as well as ongoing costs for soil and fertilizer, and putting in hours of very real physical labor. If a patient grows for herself, these costs are repaid by the marijuana harvested and the relief it brings. But if a patient cannot grow for herself, the very considerable costs and burdens of producing the marijuana fall totally on the caregiver, with all compensation prohibited.  This isn't just unfair: it has the practical effect of making it virtually impossible to be a caregiver, which means no one can help the person who cannot grow for herself. If you wish to limit the ability of a caregiver to profit from their cottage industry, you could set a maximum number of patients (but not a maximum of one), or a maximum price per ouince, or both. A limit of, say, 20 patients per caregiver and $100 per ounce would keep caregivers and their homes from turning into for-profit dispensaries but would not leave patients with no one to turn to during a long period when cities and towns are enacting moratoriums and potential dispensary operators are clearing numerous legal hurdles.

The provision that a patient must have no more than two total sources of marijuana is also unnecessarily onerous. If all providers are supposed to use a common state database, any user of the database should be able to verify that the same patient isn't filling the same prescription multiple times at different locations. If a further check is needed, patients could be issued something like a ration book.

One senses in all these regulations the underlying assumption that a set of air-tight regulations is both necessary and sufficient to prevent  medical marijuana from being diverted to healthy recreational users, and that without such air-tight regulations, large-scale diversion is inevitable, with disastrous social consequences, particularly the increased availability to minors.

Let's be realistic: recreational users, including minors, already have total access to marijuana if they want it. Kids themselves, when surveyed, report that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Those who get their dope from dealers needn't fear being rejected as too young, and most of them get it, not from dealers, but from each other, in a vast informal network where everyone is both a user and a distributor. Likewise, almost all Massachusetts adults who wish to consume marijuana recreationally have found or could find a connection: marijuana prices have actually come down in recent years due to market saturation.

As officials responsible for public health, your first priority must be to make sure that patients who need marijuana for relief of painful and debilitating conditions can get it.

Minimizing diversion cannot be the main goal: it will never be effective for its stated purpose and is certain to cause unnecessary stress and pain for patients who need relief now and for the caregivers who would like to provide it .
Respectfully submitted,
Andy Gaus
Boston, MA

Post to Twitter


Coporate Americas High Life

Stacking the vapors... ILLA

It’s hard to ignore the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere. They are on the corner and in the news. If you are a tax lawyer, it is even harder to ignore them, for there are big tax problems in this industry. See Voters Say Yes To Marijuana, IRS Says No. But when I said I thought the industry was going corporate—Is Medical Marijuana Going Corporate?—I didn’t realize how true it was.

Now I’m getting merger notices. Yes, marijuana M&A is here. In this case, it’s about the vapor machines that can obviate smoking and instead dispense the meds without even using a match (or a lighter for that matter).

Medbox, Inc. (OTC Markets: MDBX) announced the acquisition of 100% of Vaporfection International Inc., manufacturer of Vaporfection vaporizers. Medbox was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Business Section: Wall Street sees opportunity in marijuana.

Vaporfection makes “herbal delivery systems.” The deal involved the issuance of 260,864 MDBX stock warrants. Medbox sells and services automated, biometrically controlled dispensing and storage systems for medicine and merchandise. And Vaporfection seems quite a catch.

Vaporfection claimed Best Vaporizer in Product of the Year at the Cannabis Cup Amsterdam 2011, and Best Vaporizer at the Kush Expo LA 2012. The company’s patented designs cause marijuana to release its medicinal ingredient into the vapor. The resulting vapor is pure, virtually odorless, and goes into the patient’s respiratory system.

Vaporfection was created by Amir Yomtov in 2006. In 2011, the company was purchased by entrepreneur Herb Postma. Mr. Postma continues to manage Vaporfection and notes that under Medbox, Vaporfection revenues are projected to exceed $4 million in 12 months. All this sound rosy, but not to the feds.

After all, legal dispensaries are still labeled as drug traffickers under federal law, and that creates big tax problems. Section 280E of the tax code denies tax deductions for any business trafficking in controlled substances. The IRS says it must enforce Section 280E. Yet the U.S. Tax Court has opened the door a crack by allowing dispensaries to deduct other expenses distinct from dispensing marijuana. See Californians Helping to Alleviate Medical Problems Inc. v. Commissioner.

If a dispensary sells marijuana and operates the separate business of care-giving, the care-giving expenses are deductible. Some expenses might relate to both. If only 10% of the premises are used to dispense marijuana, 90% of the rent is deductible. But good record-keeping is essential. See Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Persist Despite Tax Obstacles.

But even good records won’t make vaporizers or drug paraphernalia deductible. In Olive v. Commissioner, Martin Olive sold medical marijuana at the Vapor Room, where he used vaporizers so patients didn’t have to smoke. However, with only one business, Section 280E precluded Olive’s deductions.

Robert W. Wood practices law with Wood LLP, in San Francisco. The author of more than 30 books, including Taxation of Damage Awards & Settlement Payments (4th Ed. 2009 with 2012 Supplement, Tax Institute), he can be reached at This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.

Post to Twitter