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Chances are you saw the headlines on Wednesday: "Casual marijuana use linked to brain changes," "Marijuana re-shapes brains of users, study claims" or "Casual marijuana use may damage your brain." Oh my god, marijuana is bad for my brain!

Not so fast.

"I think I saw one headline that was 'Marijuana reshapes the brain' and I groaned — that's not what we did," said Dr. Jodi Gilman, 31, author of the now-famous Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital study on marijuana's effects, in an interview with PolicyMic.

Research is full of nuance, and nuance sometimes gets lost in the conversation. The collective freakout over this study had to do with its findings: Certain regions of the brain of people who smoke marijuana are structurally different than people who don't. That got interpreted, at least in headlines and ledes, as marijuana changes your brain.

"The conclusions were modest in the paper — we never say marijuana causes these changes," Gilman said, who's a neuroscientist with a Ph.D. from Brown University. "The media may have given that impression in headlines, but the study doesn't show causation."

It was a classic A and B study. Take group one and see how they're different from group two. That's it.

The experiment is a launching point for further research. It was conducted with 40 people from Boston, ages 18-25. Half of the participants used marijuana at least once a week but weren't dependent on the drug, and the other half weren't marijuana smokers. The smokers in the study, the experimental group, started smoking between the ages of 14 and 18 years old (16.6 years old with a standard deviation of two years). They were hooked up to an MRI, and Gilman and others found that the experimental group had structural differences in the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala regions of their brains (which relate to motivation and emotion).

MRI from the study, which shows (far right) where the marijuana group has greater brain density than the control group. Image Credit: Journal of Neuroscience

"The main point is there are differences in the brains of these two groups. The subtly is we don't know if those differences are causal and relate to function or behavior," Gilman says.

There are at least a few different explanations for the differences and their meaning. For example, maybe people who use marijuana at a young age have natural differences in their brains. Or maybe a structural change in your brain, like a higher density amygdala, doesn't necessarily lead to good or bad effects.

There's way more research that needs to be done and that's Gilman's largest takeaway for others.

Since the study came out, Gilman has received a range of feedback. Some people criticize the small sample size — she states that the next step is to conduct the study with a larger group — or the funding source, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, among others (which got a laugh out of Gilman: "Your data is your data").

"Since this paper has come out, some people think I'm a crazy conservative against legalization," she says. "I don't think anyone should go to jail for using marijuana— people can do what they want — I just want them to know what's happening to the brain."

The reality, for even pro-legalization people like myself, is that there's a dearth of research on the effects of marijuana — a psychoactive substance that many states are considering legalizing. It'd be illogical to think that a psychoactive substance that gets you high doesn't affect the brain. By definition, it does and we should be honest about that.

"It took us 40 years to convince people that smoking cigarettes was bad for them and by then, people had all these negative effects. I don't want it to take 40 years to figure out the effects of marijuana," Gilman said.

That sounds reasonable to me, and until we know more, always be a skeptic.


Via PolicyMic

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The Changing of the Guard

changing of guard pic

The Connecticut NORML Board of Directors held their election for the position of Executive Director. By a unanimous vote, John Watkins CEO of Ground Clouds LLC (A custom medical cannabis vaporizer manufacturer) has been elected as the new Executive Director of Connecticut NORML. John has been an active board member of CT NORML since it’s induction in 2011 and is also a 2010 graduate of Oaksterdam University (America’s first and premier cannabis college).

In this short period of time CT NORML has been together, the group has managed to pass both decriminalization and medical cannabis through CT legislation within the first 18-months of operations under the leadership of the group’s founding member Erik Williams, which whom will remain as an active board member.

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Hearing on AG’S Bill and More will be April 16

Please read, This is very important! We need patients and caregivers to show up at the State House tomorrow Wednesday April 16th at 4:30! Grow rights are at risk!!

The bills pertaining to marijuana will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday April 16 at the “rise of the House”(4:30pm) in the House Lounge located inside the Rhode Island State House.
Looks like all bills pertaining to Marijuana will be heard including legalization of recreational use and amendments to the decriminalization law.
RIPAC is concerned with:

H7610 – the AG bill (you can find summary if you scroll down on this site) For full text:

H7981 – RIPAC/Scott Slater bill – would add PTSD & expedite MMj applications and waive fees for hospice eligible patients. For full text:

H7611 – would restrict compassion centers’ advertising. For full text:

H7862 – lets compassion centers determine the number of plants they can grow (this provision is also in AG bill) For full text:

As many of you know, RIPAC is continuing to work with the AG’s office and Rep. Lisa Tomasso on H7610 to see if we can agree to a bill that will address the AG’s concerns while protecting patient access to medicine. Thus far, the talks have been promising but, as of April 16, RIPAC has NOT reached an agreement with AG’s office so the hearing will go forward on H7610 on April 16 at 4:30pm as planned. Please follow RIPAC on facebook for additional updates.

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Bills on concentrates, edibles move forward in Colorado House

A Colorado House bill that would establish equivalences between marijuana that comes from plants and marijuana concentrates in retail products passed through committee Tuesday.

Another bill that deals with edible pot products also has been brought forward. Both measures come in the wake of deaths that have occurred after the ingestion of marijuana products.

“Every passing day, every passing news story tells us that we have to do something about both because the public’s safety is being harmed,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, the sponsor of the concentrates bill.

McNulty’s bill would require the Colorado Department of Revenue to address how much marijuana concentrate can be sold by a licensed business. Current law limits sales of marijuana from plants to one ounce, however it does not address how much concentrate can be sold.

“At least this will give us some level of equivalency with flower plants,” said McNulty, who added the bill will cost about $100,000 to implement.

McNulty’s bill will next be heard by the House Appropriations Committee. The edible marijuana bill is expected to go straight to the floor for debate.


Via The Cannabist

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Maryland signs decriminalization, medical marijuana bills into law!

On April 14, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation to remove criminal penalties from possession of small amounts of marijuana, along with twin bills that will finally provide qualifying patients with safe access to medical marijuana.

Beginning on October 1, 2014, the decriminalization bill (SB 364) will impose civil fines — not criminal penalties and possible jail time — on those possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana. Details are available here. Thank you to our allies and champions in the General Assembly!

The new law to convert the state’s medical marijuana law into one that works will go into effect on June 1. The state’s 2013 medical marijuana law relies on teaching hospitals to get involved in the distribution of marijuana. Unsurprisingly, none have done so. Delegates Cheryl Glenn and Dan Morhaim and Sen. Jamie Raskin sponsored SB 923 and HB 881, which will fix this by allowing dispensaries and cultivators to provide medical marijuana directly to patients whose physicians recommend medical marijuana.

A Fall 2013 poll commissioned by the ACLU and MPP found that Maryland voters not only overwhelmingly support decriminalizing marijuana, a majority also think it’s time to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Curt Anderson introduced legislation to do just that, but unfortunately neither bill advanced out of committee. If you support regulating marijuana, please ask your legislators to take marijuana off the criminal market and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol. We’re optimistic that the Free State will be among the first state legislatures to take marijuana off the criminal market and regulate it.

MPP is proud to be a member of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which is leading the charge for sensible marijuana policy in Maryland. This large and growing coalition includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, UFCW Local 400, the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, and more than a dozen other organizations.



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Marijuana Vending Machine Unveiled In Colorado


An automated pot-selling machine was unveiled at an event held at an Avon, Colo., restaurant Saturday, promising a potential new era of selling marijuana and pot-infused snacks from vending machines directly to customers.

Its creators say the machine, called the ZaZZZ, uses biometrics to verify a customer's age. The machine is climate-controlled to keep its product fresh.

You may be picturing a vending machine on a sidewalk, ready to dispense pot brownies to anyone with correct change. That's not quite what backers of the machine have in mind. For now, at least, the ZaZZZ is aimed for use only by medical marijuana patients. And it'll be in licensed stores, where it will serve a purpose like that of an automated checkout line at a grocery, they say.

The machine is built by American Green; its first model is geared toward selling snacks and other items at dispensary Herbal Elements in Eagle-Vail, Colo. — after the company is sure it has met all regulations.

Stephen Shearin of American Green parent company Tranzbyte tells Denver blogger The Cannabist that the vending machine "uses the same technology that checks age/ID fraud under the Control Meth Act. Your identity is confirmed against active biometrics. The machine on display this weekend will not be taking medical cards, but we are prepared to integrate."

Shearin also acknowledges that the idea of buying marijuana from a machine will likely have a "wow factor" that could help boost business.

The pot machine could also help dispensary owners cut down on employee theft.

"We're going to eliminate the middle man," Herbal Elements owner Greg Honan tells Denver's Fox 31 TV. Describing the vending machine's benefits, Honan added that the snacks will go directly "to our budtender, right into the machine. There's no room for theft by patients, by employees — there's no way to lose track of the inventory."

The ZaZZZ isn't the only marijuana vending machine out there. Both Arizona's Endexx and California's Medbox have made headlines for their efforts to streamline pot sales. But as far as we've seen, those companies' products are kept behind stores' counters — for now, at least.



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3 months in: No increase in Denver crime

By Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist Staff

As Douglas County Sheriff David A. Weaver reached out to his constituents in September of 2012, he encouraged them to vote against Amendment 64, a.k.a. the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado.

“If voters pass this amendment, I believe there will be many harmful consequences,” Weaver said at the time. “Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana and pot for sale everywhere. I think our entire state will pay the price.”

Granted we’re nearly a year and a half into legal recreational marijuana — and only three months into legal sales — but how has the availability and legality of weed impacted crime stats in the city of Denver? The folks at Ezra Klein’s much ballyhooed Vox Media took a look at these statistics for a piece published April 7, “Remember when legal marijuana was going to send crime skyrocketing?”

“Three months into its legalization experiment, Denver isn’t seeing a widespread rise in crime,” German Lopez’s piece reads. “Violent and property crimes actually decreased slightly, and some cities are taking a second look at allowing marijuana sales.”

“We had folks, kind of doomsayers, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have riots in the streets the day they open,’” Denver City Council President Mary Beth Susman, a supporter of legal marijuana, told Lopez. “But it was so quiet.”

The report, rooted in this Denver crime data, “shows a slight decrease in the past year: violent crime in January and February fell by 2.4 percent compared to the first two months of 2013 … So far, city data shows no increase in property crime. Compared to the first two months of 2013, property crime in January and February actually dropped by 12.1 percent. Reports of robberies and stolen property dropped by 6.2 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Burglaries and criminal mischief to property rose by only 0.5 percent.”

These are early numbers, yes, and it’s too soon to definitively say if legal marijuana sales have negatively or positively impacted crime in Denver and its surroundings. But are these numbers a signal of what we can expect in the future?


Via The Cannabist

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Busted: Maine Man Claims Pot in Car isn’t His Because He Stole the Car

Douglas Glidden was charged with felony operating under the influence a felony count of theft by unauthorized taking and marijuana possession.

LIVERMORE FALLS , ME – A Maine man who was trying to avoid being charged with marijuana possession may now be wishing he simply pleaded to police that the pot was his.

When Douglas Glidden was stopped by police in Livermore Falls because an officer recognized him and knew his license was suspended, he “told them the marijuana found in the car was not his because he had stolen the car.”

While Glidden was being taken to the Androscoggin County Jail for booking, police said the car’s owner called and reported that it had been stolen from his driveway.

The 25-year-old was charged with felony operating under the influence, and felony counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and violating condition of release.

According to Chief Ernest Steward Jr., Glidden has also been charged with a misdemeanor count of operating with a suspended or revoked license and a civil violation of possession of a useable amount of marijuana.


Via The Daily Chronic

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Report: Legalizing marijuana would reap millions of dollars for RI


Illustration by Jessica Pollak

Illustration by Jessica Pollak

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A report from OpenDoors, a non-profit in Silver Lake that serves those formerly in prison and their families, predicts that the legalization and regulation of marijuana in Rhode Island could generate $21.5 million to $82 million in annual tax revenues.

The estimated tax revenue was included in the study, “Estimated Effects of the Tax and Regulate Legislation in Rhode Island,” that focused on Senate and House legislation that would create a $50 per ounce excise tax of all marijuana sold wholesale and impose a 10 percent special sales tax on all retail marijuana and marijuana products sold at retail outlets.

The proposed legislation calls for no more than 10 marijuana stores in the state that would sell to anyone 21 years of age or older.

The research methods were developed by economist at the RAND Institute, Harvard University and with Dr. Angela Dills, an associate professor of economics at Providence College.

The estimates are based on various estimates of how much marijuana is currently being used in Rhode Island, predicted price changes and the amount of marijuana that will be taxed.

Currently, there are more than 7,000 patients in the state’s medical marijuana program and that figure is expected to jump dramatically if the drug is legalized and regulated. Last spring, the state’s first two marijuana dispensaries opened in Rhode Island and they have generated about $137,000 in tax revenue.

Nick Horton, a policy specialist at OpenDoors who wrote the report said in a news release: “Passage of this legislation means tens of millions of additional revenue for necessary Rhode Island programs including those that treat alcohol and drug abuse.”

Horton previously served on the state Senate’s Special Commission on Marijuana Prohibition in 2010 that conducted research on marijuana decriminalization legislation that took effect a year ago.

Pat Oglesby, former chief tax counsel for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and founder of the Center for New Tax Revenue, predicted that Rhode Island’s plans to legalize and regulate marijuana “would be a significant improvement” over the tax structures in Colorado and Washington. Those are the first two states to legalize the drug and the tax rate is based on the price of the cannabis.

“The Rhode Island Bill’s per-ounce tax base is more stable and harder to manipulate,” Oglesby said. “It’s a better tax plan.”

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Should employees be allowed to use legal pot off-duty?

USA Today reports on the tricky legal issues when it comes to legal marijuana and employers who don't want workers high on the job.

The story, reported by Trevor Hughes, explores what medical and recreational marijuana means for employers in states where the drug is legal. In Colorado, more employers require drug tests of their employees. One drug testing outfit in Washington told Hughes that an increasing number of job candidates admit they can't pass a screening.

Dawn Owens, an office worker, told Hughes she opts for Vicodin over marijuana, which is more effective, because she worries about her job.

"You can hire a raging alcoholic that can pass a test because they haven't had a drink in 24 hours and you can hire someone who abuses prescription drugs because they were able to get a prescription for it, but if someone smokes a joint on a weekend they can't get a job because they can't pass the drug test," she told Hughes.

Hughes reports:

More employers are testing prospective workers before hiring and continuing random drug tests, says Tiffany Baker, co-owner of the Denver DNA and Drug Center, which provides drug-testing services to employers.

"I think big companies were already testing anyway," she says. "I think small companies are … now more likely to send their workers over."

"Employers have total power in this arena," Graves says. "At this point, the employer can do anything they want to do."


Via Marijuana News

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