Releaf Magazine

U.S. judge won’t remove marijuana from most-dangerous drug list

By Maura Dolan

Marijuana plants on display at a dispensary in Oakland in November 2014. A federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of a 1970 federal law that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug akin to heroin. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Efforts to legalize marijuana suffered a defeat in court Wednesday when a judge upheld the constitutionality of a 1970 federal law that classifies cannabis as a dangerous drug akin to LSD and heroin.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller held a five-day hearing about marijuana last year. (U.S. District Court)

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, announcing her decision at a hearing in Sacramento, said she could not lightly overturn a law passed by Congress.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller held a five-day hearing about marijuana last year. (U.S. District Court)
Mueller agreed last year to hold an extensive fact-finding hearing on the issue, raising the hopes of activists seeking to legalize marijuana and worrying opponents who consider the drug a threat to health and public safety. The hearing marked the first time in decades that a judge was willing to examine the classification of marijuana under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.

The Schedule 1 classification is for drugs that have no medicinal purpose, are unsafe even under medical supervision and contain a high potential for abuse. In addition to marijuana, heroin and LSD, other Schedule 1 drugs include Ecstasy and mescaline.

Mueller, an Obama appointee, announced her decision before issuing a written ruling, which is still pending. She considered the constitutionality of the classification in response to a pretrial motion brought by lawyers defending accused marijuana growers.

“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Mueller was quoted as saying on, a pro-marijuana blog that has been covering the case. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

Dale Gieringer, director of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Mueller’s decision could not be appealed until after the criminal case against the growers was resolved. A trial is not expected until late this year or early next year.

“This is on a very slow train,” Gieringer said.

He said Mueller remarked that much has changed since marijuana’s classification but “a lower court judge has to follow the law.” He said last year’s hearing “showed the dysfunctionality of the current drug laws.”

Because of marijuana's Schedule 1 status, federal restrictions make it difficult for researchers to obtain legal cannabis for study, advocates say.

NORML praised Mueller for “having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves.”

“While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little,” said Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director. “We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the 9th Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.”

Scott Chipman, Southern California chairman of a Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, said he was pleased with the ruling but found it “disturbing” that Mueller had even conducted a fact-finding hearing on the issue.

“There is a false sense that marijuana legalization is on the move, when we are seeing a huge pushback against legalization, particularly in small towns across the country,” Chipman said. “It is a seriously harmful drug that is much stronger than it was in the ’70s and is getting stronger by the month.”

U.S. Atty. Benjamin B. Wagner, whose office is prosecuting the marijuana growers, said he was pleased with Mueller’s decision.

The question before the judge, he said, “was not whether marijuana should be legalized for medical or recreational use, but whether decisions concerning the status of marijuana under federal law should properly be made in accordance with the science-based scheduling process set forth in the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress.”


VIA LA Times

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The Federal Government Fails Its Constituents on Marijuana

One model of political statesmanship is figuring out where you want the country to go and persuading the people to follow in that direction. Another is figuring out where the people are going and hustling to get in front of the parade.

Then there is the third and most baffling model: watching the people stride resolutely in one direction and then giving them the bird as they go.

The first two square with our democratic ideals. The third doesn't. Unfortunately, it's the one being followed for federal policy on marijuana.

No fewer than 23 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to allow access to the drug for therapeutic needs. The public is on board: 86 percent of Americans think doctors should be allowed to prescribe it for serious illnesses.

Yet in the 19 years since California became the first state to try the idea, our elected representatives in Washington have done little to facilitate these experiments and a lot to obstruct them. Federal law has not changed, and federal drug agents and prosecutors are free to enforce it in cheerful disregard of state choices.

In 2013, a Stockton dispensary owner who was selling medical cannabis, as allowed by California, was sentenced to five years on federal charges. Last month, a jury acquitted five Washington state medical marijuana growers who were prosecuted by the feds—but convicted them on a single count that could send them to prison for 20 years.

Colorado and Washington have gone further yet by legalizing pot for recreational use, something now favored by a majority of Americans.

But these states also face federal obstacles. Although Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would generally accommodate the changes, dispensaries have trouble operating like normal businesses. One reason is that most banks won't touch them with a 10-foot pole.

"Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and if we process funds from a marijuana business and something turns out to be wrong, we risk losing our charters," Rob Rowe, vice president of the American Bankers Association, told the Huffington Post. This aversion forces pot shops to rely entirely on cash for all transactions, which is not only monumentally inefficient, but makes them a tempting target for robbers.

The sensible thing for Congress to do would be to simply repeal the federal law against the sale and use of pot, leaving the matter entirely up to the states. But even though most Americans would applaud, our lawmakers are not about to take that step.

There are more limited reforms available, and last year, Congress actually adopted one. An appropriations bill prohibited the Justice Department from spending one thin dime to keep states from "implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

That change didn't faze the department, which takes the obstinate view that it may still prosecute individuals under federal law—and has refused to abandon cases undertaken before the amendment came to pass.

A California dispensary owner was convicted in 2008 on several federal counts for selling cannabis. After the appropriations ban, his lawyers asked a court to stop prosecutors from spending money fighting his appeal. But the Justice Department is still hoping to lock him up—merely for running a Morro Bay shop whose 2006 opening was attended by the mayor and city attorney.

So stronger measures are in order. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have introduced a bill to assure that states may make their own decisions on medical marijuana. Patients who get pot under state rules would no longer be vulnerable to federal prosecution.

The legislation would promote more research by moving cannabis off the list of Schedule 1 drugs, which supposedly have no medical use. It would also let Department of Veterans Affairs doctors prescribe the drug, which some veterans use to alleviate their post-traumatic stress disorder.

Their legislation may not pass this session, but these senators clearly comprehend how the public feels about pot prohibition. Americans have realized that banning it is more dangerous than allowing it, and in the end they are bound to force change.

When one of Ernest Hemingway's characters was asked, "How did you go bankrupt?" he replied, "Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly." The collapse of the government's long campaign against weed is in the gradual phase, but the sudden phase is coming.



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Liquid Medical Marijuana Shows Promise for Epilepsy

Child and adult patients who took cannabidiol had big drop in seizure rates, study found

WebMD News from HealthDay
By Robert Preidt

A liquid form of medical marijuana may help people with severe epilepsy that does not respond to other treatments, according to a new report.

The study included 213 child and adult patients with 12 different types of severe epilepsy. Some of them had Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which are types of epilepsy that can cause intellectual disability and lifelong seizures.

The patients took a liquid form of medical marijuana, called cannabidiol, daily for 12 weeks.

Among the 137 people who completed the study, the number of seizures fell by an average of 54 percent, according to a team led by Dr. Orrin Devinsky, of New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City.

Among the 23 patients with Dravet syndrome who completed the study, the number of convulsive seizures fell by 53 percent, the investigators found. The 11 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who finished the study also had a 55 percent decline in the number of attacks called "atonic" seizures, which cause a sudden loss of muscle tone.

The drug wasn't always easy to take, however, and 12 patients stopped taking it due to side effects, the researchers said. The types of side effects seen in more than 10 percent of the patients included drowsiness (21 percent), diarrhea (17 percent), tiredness (17 percent) and decreased appetite (16 percent).

The study was supported by drug maker GW Pharmaceuticals. The findings are scheduled to be presented next week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Washington, D.C. Experts note that findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal

Devinsky agreed that larger, placebo-controlled studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of the drug.

"So far there have been few formal studies on this marijuana extract," he said in an AAN news release. "These results are of great interest, especially for the children and their parents who have been searching for an answer for these debilitating seizures."

One expert unconnected to the study called the findings "very exciting."

"Prior to this study, there were mainly anecdotal reports and very few formal studies evaluating cannabidiol, a component of cannabis, in treating seizures," explained Dr. Scott Stevens, director of Advanced Clinical Experience in Neurology at North-Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

Stevens believes that "these results stand as a stepping stone toward further studies evaluating the use of marijuana in the treatment of epilepsy."



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Terminal City Confidential: ‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery returns to his sticky throne

By Susanne Tabata
Photos: Courtesy of Marc Emery
VANCOUVER — When Canada extradited Marc Emery to the U.S. to serve out a five-year prison term for selling seeds, marijuana was illegal. By the time he was released from jail in July 2014, Washington State and Colorado had both passed legislation legalizing pot. Anyone who had followed Marc’s story knew the sentence was… harsh. While he sat behind bars, his wife Jodie worked on the 502 ballot initiative to legalize pot in Washington State, which Marc was asked to endorse. Her accomplice was the same DA John McKay who had sworn out an indictment against Marc in 2005.

Protesters outside of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s constituency office.

“So here’s the DA changing his mind and then writing out the legislation and then doing press conferences with my wife. It’s so rich in irony it would make a good scene in a movie,” says Emery, now a free man with many stories to tell. Times are changing quickly and so is the law. With prohibition likely to end in Canada in the near future, the “Prince of Pot” reflects on his sentence, prison life, and what the future holds for him in the new world of ‘pot incorporated.’

Emery admits his punishment was due to “arrogance in that proud way.” He was outspoken about selling a lot of seeds and raising a lot of money to give away for ballot initiatives. “We gave a lot of money to Colorado to get signatures in 2000 and that was very successful and it became law. So the DEA was aware we were earning millions of dollars and spending it. Additionally we had sold over three million seeds to Americans and that produced a staggering quantity of marijuana. I used to boast in my advertising that my work as one person selling those seeds would grow more pot than the DEA could destroy in a year. Well, that kind of stuff is going to bring you to their attention and sure enough they had hundreds of agents working on my case over a three year period, spending millions and millions of dollars.”

Marc and Jodie Emery in prison.

As for prison life, he admits, “For me it was a better experience than it would be for most others. I’ve done a lot of television shows and they used to air them in prison. Like National Geographic airs Marijuana Nation all the time in the U.S. People would see me on TV and it would give me status and street cred. Black rappers wore Free Marc jerseys. Snoop Dogg gave me an award last year and said ‘keep your chin up nigga’ and all of a sudden I became an honourary black guy. Tommy Chong wore a ‘Free Marc’ T-shirt on CNN. I got 7,500 letters from different Americans in four and a half years. One guy sent me a letter every day for the entire time I was in prison. Not just a letter but reprints from books and magazines, a whole package for me to read. He was a 61-year-old pensioner on disability and he would do that every day.

“Music was a savior to me. Having to learn to read music and play music was a pleasure I could have almost everyday. I learned how to play bass guitar and was taught by these musicians with 30 years experience so I was in this rock ‘n’ roll band for three years. We played songs from the ’60s and ’70s, some ’90s. The hardest and most satisfying was Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Texas Flood’ took me 30 days to learn the bass, whereas ‘The Thrill is Gone’ took me 20 minutes. ‘Come Together’ was a couple of hours. We did ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ a few Hendrix songs, Cream, Bob Marley and some country songs. I even sang a couple of them.

Jamming with the band.

“I came closest to getting high and having an orgasm when I was playing. Whenever we practiced it was like we weren’t in prison at all. It was a great escape. That was all paid for by the inmates. The feds didn’t allow the prison to make money off of prisoners so all the money made at the prison commissary went into a trust fund for the inmates and it paid for the music program. Yazoo Medium (Mississippi) had the best music program out of any prison I’ve ever heard of.”

Marc Emery, left, and Tommy Chong.

Emery doesn’t miss being a prisoner but misses the music. “I used to practice every day. I got a brand new Fender jazz bass and I haven’t touched it for a note.” He has no time while speaking in 15 European cities over a six-month period and receiving four lifetime achievement awards. Add to that he has “30 cities to visit in Canada from August to October for the federal election where we are supporting the Liberals.”

Back in Vancouver, business carries on at 307 West Hastings, known as Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture. Marc clarified how the Seed Bank is related to his business. “It was known as Marc Emery Direct Seeds. The Vancouver Seed Bank started after I stopped selling seeds in 2005. One of my employees Rebecca Ambrose started Vancouver Seed Bank so we just invited her to be partners with us here so we have a Seed Bank in the building. We do derive revenue from that business. We are opening up a new location at Davie and Bidwell in April. Both a lounge and a store and we’ll have seeds there too, as well as everything else. We are looking forward to being in the West End, a block away from the beach.

“We have seeds in this building that will help people cultivate indoor or outdoor marijuana suitable to the West Coast or other areas in Canada. Some of them are heirloom strains that somebody has had for 10-15 years or longer and others are recent hybridizations from people still working to perfect strains. There are so many seed companies out there that you have to go by reputation.” Emery says check the Internet. “You can find out what happens when people get those seeds and they grow out. Everyone likes to show off with photographs.”

There is a fear that the corporatization of pot will spell bad news for the ‘little guy’ but Emery sees it differently.

“I want to be able to advertise, buy billboards, in fact that is one of the most important things. We need to be able to compete like a capitalist entity on a level playing field. We need to be able to advertise marijuana vs. alcohol, marijuana vs. prescription drugs, marijuana vs. all those things that people do for medicine or recreational therapy that are far more harmful to them. “ He acknowledges pot is big business. “The money is pouring into cannabis. Some license providers have capitalization of 50 to 80 million dollars. You’ve got very sophisticated vaporizers being made by companies. A lot of money is going to research and development for therapeutic treatments. You’re going to see a huge amount of pharmaceutical money, industrial money, and hedge fund money move into cannabis. In fact it’s already moving into it by the hundreds of millions of dollars.” Is it visible? “Yes, in a way that was never even possible or thought of 10 years ago.”

Susanne Tabata is the creator of the punk documentary Bloodied But Unbowed. Special thanks to Marc and Jodie Emery.



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There’s no debate – it’s time to make medical marijuana legal in Pa.: Charlie Gerow

charlie-gerow-headshot-artjpeg-76ff63b7b8cc01a9 By Charlie Gerow

Several years ago Tony May and I wrote a side-by-side column in support of medical marijuana.

At the time I mused that agreeing with Daylin Leach, one of the most liberal legislators, should cause me to re-think my position.

That was before state Sen. Mike Folmer, one of the legislature's most conservative members, added his strong support to Leach's proposals.

A lot has happened since then. Support for the legalization has grown across the commonwealth and within the General Assembly.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll says that 88 percent of Pennsylvanians support the legalization of marijuana for medical use. Eighty-eight percent! You'd have a hard time getting 88 percent support for motherhood or apple pie.

Yet marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania, even for medical purposes. With the support that exists everywhere you have to wonder what the roadblock is.

I suffer with glaucoma. I've already lost a frightening percentage of my eyesight. My condition is currently controlled with daily dosages of eye drops. If that should fail, I sure as heck would want every therapy available to me, including marijuana.

Of course there are many illnesses much more debilitating than glaucoma that can be treated with marijuana, from Alzheimer's to fibromyalgia to HIV/AIDS to cancer. Many people with conditions far worse than mine are asking for the right to use marijuana legally.

Listening to the parents of kids with cancer and other horrible diseases pleading for the right to use medical marijuana to ease their children's suffering is heartbreaking.

You have to ask, "Why are they not allowed to try something that could ease their burden even a little bit?"

Many in the medical community are also asking for legalization of marijuana for medical use.

Years ago, a National Institutes of Health panel concluded that smoking marijuana could help treat a number of chronic conditions including pain and nausea. It could also help people who failed to respond to other remedies the study said.

In one older survey, more than 70 percent of U.S. cancer specialists said they would prescribe marijuana if it were legal.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they had already recommended that their patients break the law to use marijuana.

Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical guru and a well-renowned neurosurgeon, once spoke out against legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

But two years ago he wrote a piece entitled, "Why I changed my mind on weed," in which he apologized for his earlier stand.

His further research, he said, had convinced him that he was simply wrong. He discussed the anti-cancer effects of marijuana and cited another study in which 76 percent of the physicians surveyed said they would approve the use of marijuana to help ease the pain of a woman suffering from breast cancer.

Medical marijuana is legal in about half the states. The largest state in the union, California, made it legal by popular vote nearly two decades ago.

In the intervening years none of the "scare" issues raised during the referendum has manifest themselves.

As the New York Times reported, "Warnings against partial legalization -- of civil disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other use -- have proved unfounded."

Support for legalization now runs exceptionally high (no pun intended) across every demographic. Although some once called it a "liberal" position, that characterization isn't altogether historically accurate.

William F. Buckley, the godfather of modern conservatism and the founder of National Review, argued for the legalization of medical marijuana (and marijuana in general for that matter). Another National Review icon, Richard Brookhiser, used marijuana (not legally at the time) when he battled cancer.

His testimony in favor of medical usage of marijuana before the House Judiciary Committee sums up my own thoughts: "My support for medical marijuana is not a contradiction of my principles, but an extension of them. I am for law and order. But crime has to be fought intelligently and the law disgraces itself when it harasses the sick.

"I am for traditional virtues, but carrying your beliefs to unjust ends is not moral, it is philistine.

Most importantly, I believe in getting government off people's backs. We should include the backs of sick people trying to help themselves."

With the support of so many, hopefully it's only a matter of brief time before the General Assembly moves and the governor signs legislation to make medical marijuana legal.

Charlie Gerow is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Harrisburg-based public affairs firm.

Gerow, along with "Donkeys & Elephants" columnist Tony May and PennLive Opinion Editor John L. Micek, is a panelist on "Face the State," a weekly public affairs show on WHP-TV in Harrisburg.


VIA  Penn Live

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Author: ‘My family is safer, healthier because marijuana is regulated, legal’

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 11.53.22 AMBy Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist Staff

Many books have already been published regarding the impact of cannabis legalization — from both positive and negative perspectives. But Bruce Barcott’s new book “Weed the People, the Future of Legal Marijuana in America” (released April 7 on Time Books) looks to be among the most credible.

Barcott — “a Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction, is a contributor to the New York Times, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, the Atlantic Monthly, Outside magazine, and many other publications,” according to his own bio — is a legit science journalist. In an adapted excerpt from “Weed the People” just launched on Time’s website, he positions himself a few years ago as an undecided voter as his homestate of Washington was deciding the fate of legal recreational marijuana.

A little more than two years ago, I was anti-pot. I hated marijuana. I hadn’t really touched the stuff since college. Moreover, I didn’t want my teenage children to have easier access to pot. Instinct told me to vote no to legalization.

Then a friend swayed my vote. Legalization wasn’t about whether I loved or hated pot, she said. “This is a race issue. It’s a civil rights issue.” Generations of African-American men sat in prison “because they were caught with a substance that’s less harmful than alcohol,” she said. “You’re a white guy, so you don’t have to worry about it. Others do.”

Fair enough, I thought. I held my nose and voted yes. The next morning I awoke to find that we’d legalized pot. My first thought involved the word holy and is inappropriate for a family publication. My second thought was this: What in the world did we just do?

After two years spent researching legal weed for his book, here are a few of Barcott’s takeaways.

Legal, well-regulated marijuana has had an overwhelmingly positive change for my state, my community – and yes, my family. That’s not the answer I expected.

There have been bumps. Pot-infused edibles have been a problem for some people – Google “Maureen Dowd” and “bad trip” – but state regulators quickly reduced the allowed dosage and increased controls on the products. The solution was market regulation, not mass incarceration.

We no longer arrest 12,000 people every year for possessing marijuana in Washington state. Those are 12,000 people who kept their jobs, went to college, supported their kids, and enjoyed happy and productive lives. State-licensed pot farmers have driven illegal growers out of the state. Mexican cartel pot has no market here. Thousands of new jobs have been created. We’ve seen no pot-inspired crime wave, no mass conversion of citizens into stoners. Parents know more about pot than we did two years ago; when we talk to our kids about avoiding it, we come from a place of knowledge, not fear. My family is safer and healthier because marijuana is regulated and legal.

Barcott goes on to contemplate what could be lost if the United States follows Washington and Colorado’s paths of legalization and regulation.

I’m a middle-aged non-stoner who’s been living in a marijuana-legal state for two years. Here is what’s lost when pot goes legal: fear and destruction. Fear of the unknown, fear of skyrocketing use rates, fear of reefer madness. Here in Washington, as in Colorado, we’ve stopped destroying the lives of people who possess a drug that’s less harmful than alcohol. What we’ve gained are new opportunities for responsibility, honesty, and freedom.

That’s not what I expected, but it’s the truth.

Barcott will speak about “Weed the People” in Colorado during 4/20 week — at 6:30 p.m. April 14 at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place. The event is free.


VIA The Cannabist

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U.S. Legalization of Marijuana Has Hit Mexican Cartels’ Cross-Border Trade

The cartels are still smuggling harder drugs but advocates point out the success of legalization in cutting illegal trade

In total, Americans spend about $100 billion on illegal drugs every year, according to a White House report. The estimate puts marijuana at about 40% of this, so the legal industry still only accounts for a fraction of the total. One restriction to growth is that U.S. federal law still prohibits cannabis, making banking difficult and scaring investors.

In the long term, drug policy reformers hope for a legal marijuana market in the entire region. This would throw up the possibility of Mexicans legally producing and exporting their drugs to the U.S., taking advantage of cheaper labor. “Cannabis is not unlike wine,” says Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies. “I can buy a $200 bottle of wine, if that is what I am after. But many people will prefer the cheaper mass market product.” One advocate is former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has voiced support for an American entrepreneur who wants to import marijuana to the United States.

Any such cross-border market would require a change of U.N. treaties, which outlaw marijuana. These come up for discussion in a General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in April 2016. “I feel optimistic there will be change. This movement has momentum,” Angell of Marijuana Majority says. “It is interesting that the United States was historically a driver of drug prohibition. Now parts of the U.S. are leading the change.”

In the midst of this seething mountain capital, Mexico’s security ministry houses a bizarre museum — a collection of what the army seizes from drug traffickers. The Museo de Enervantes, often referred to as the Narco Museum, has drug samples themselves (including the rare black cocaine), diamond-studded guns, gold-coated cell phones, rocket-propelled grenades and medals that cartels award their most productive smugglers. It also shows off the narcos’ ingenuity for getting their drugs into the United States, including “trap cars” with secret compartments, catapults to hurl packages over the border fence and even false buttocks, to hide drugs in.

Agents on the 2,000 mile-U.S. border have wrestled with these smuggling techniques for decades, seemingly unable to stop the northward flow of drugs and southward flow of dollars and guns. But the amount of one drug — marijuana — seems to have finally fallen. U.S. Border Patrol has been seizing steadily smaller quantities of the drug, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Mexico’s army has noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, a drop of 32% compared to year before.

Drug policy reformists tout this market shift from Mexican gangsters to American licensed growers as a reason to spread legalization. “It is no surprise to me that marijuana consumers choose to buy their product from a legal tax-paying business as opposed to a black market product that is not tested or regulated,” says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “When you go to a legal store, you know what you are getting, and that is not going to be contaminated.” A group called Marijuana Doctors elaborate the point in this comical online ad.

Analysts are still trying to work out the long-term effect this shift will have on Mexican cartel finances and violence. The legal marijuana industry could be the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy. It grew 74% in 2014 to $2.7 billion, according to the ArcView group, a cannabis investment and research firm. This includes revenue from both recreational drug stores and from medical marijuana, which has been legalized in 23 states. The group predicts the industry will top $4 billion by 2016.

This means less cash for Mexican cartels to buy guns, bribe police and pay assassins. Coinciding with legalization, violence has decreased in Mexico. Homicides hit a high in 2011, with Mexican police departments reporting almost 23,000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649.

Other factors may have caused this fall in killings, says Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former officer of Mexico’s federal intelligence agency. “Finances from marijuana could be having an impact on violence but you also have to look at other causes. Many of the most violent cartel commanders have been killed or arrested,” Hope says. These downed warlords include the head of the Zetas cartel Heriberto Lazcano, a former soldier who was known as the Executioner for the mass graves he dug. Mexican marines say they shot Lazcano dead in 2012, although his cohorts bust into the funeral home and stole his corpse.

Despite the drop in homicides, Mexico’s violence is still at painful levels. In September, cartel thugs working with corrupt police attacked a group of students, killing three and abducting 43. The atrocity caused hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to protest corruption and bloodshed. On Monday, cartel gunmen ambushed police in Jalisco state, killing 15 in one of the worst attacks on security forces in recent years.

A key problem is that cartels have diversified to a portfolio of other crimes, from sex trafficking to stealing crude oil from Mexican pipelines. They also make billions smuggling hard drugs. Seizures of both heroin and crystal meth on the U.S.-Mexico border have gone up as those of marijuana have sunk, according to U.S. Homeland Security, with agents nabbing a record 34,840 pounds of meth in 2014.

In total, Americans spend about $100 billion on illegal drugs every year, according to a White House report. The estimate puts marijuana at about 40% of this, so the legal industry still only accounts for a fraction of the total. One restriction to growth is that U.S. federal law still prohibits cannabis, making banking difficult and scaring investors.

In the long term, drug policy reformers hope for a legal marijuana market in the entire region. This would throw up the possibility of Mexicans legally producing and exporting their drugs to the U.S., taking advantage of cheaper labor. “Cannabis is not unlike wine,” says Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies. “I can buy a $200 bottle of wine, if that is what I am after. But many people will prefer the cheaper mass market product.” One advocate is former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has voiced support for an American entrepreneur who wants to import marijuana to the United States.

Any such cross-border market would require a change of U.N. treaties, which outlaw marijuana. These come up for discussion in a General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in April 2016. “I feel optimistic there will be change. This movement has momentum,” Angell of Marijuana Majority says. “It is interesting that the United States was historically a driver of drug prohibition. Now parts of the U.S. are leading the change.”



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Releaf April Issue#51 Now Available!!!


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Police Accidentally Get an Entire Neighborhood High with Marijuana Bonfire


photo credit: malesbanget


Indonesian police recently lit up 3.3 tons of marijuana outside their West Jakarta office, and subsequently got residents and journalists covering the incident pretty darn high.

According to local reports, the bud bonfire created a huge cloud of smoke that quickly spread to the houses of surrounding neighbors, causing many in the smoke's vicinity to experience mild headaches and dizziness.

Officials did anticipate the engulfing fumes, and police put on gas masks before sparking up the massive pile of weed. However, residents were reportedly not warned ahead of time about the potent smoke.

In addition to the 3.3 tons of cannabis, the police also destroyed 1.8 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and 2.538 ecstasy pills.


VIA High Times

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Science Shows Marijuana Can Help Kill Tumors, Federal Government Admits

The information war about marijuana may have turned a new page with the federal government’s acknowledgment of a recent study that found the plant can significantly reduce aggressive types of brain tumors when combined with radiation treatment, endorsing what medicinal marijuana advocates have long affirmed as its healing properties.

A team of researchers from St. George’s University of London recorded reductions in high-grade glioma masses — a deadly form of brain cancer — in mice. The mice’s tumors shrank after they were exposed to radiation in tandem with two marijuana compounds: THC, which creates the “high feeling,” and CBD, which has no psychoactive side effects. In their report, the researchers said that both cannabinoids made tumors more receptive to the radiation treatment, creating what lead author Dr. Wai Lui described to HuffPost as a “triple threat” approach.

“We’ve shown that cannabinoids could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults,” Liu wrote in an op-ed earlier this year. “The results are promising…it could provide a way of breaking through glioma and saving more lives.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a government drug abuse and addiction research organization, may be on the cusp of a philosophical change. NIDA issued a revised statement about medical marijuana at the beginning of April that acknowledged the research out of St. George’s University of London, as well as other findings summarized in a November research report.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine,” the statement reads. “However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.”

Lui’s medical marijuana study, which was published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapies, follows other research conducted by a team of scientists from the United Kingdom who found that a combination of six purified cannabinoids can kill cancerous cells found in leukemia patients. Previous research has confirmed that THC reduces the size of cancerous tumors and stops the spread of HIV. Scientists have also found that strains of CBD can potentially treat children and adults suffering from seizure disorders.

Marijuana also seems to be less dangerous than previously thought. An Emory University study earlier this year found that, contrary to the concerns of many legalization opponents, inhaling marijuana smoke for years doesn’t cause significant lung damage. Those findings have also been supported by prior studies.

The scientific findings in recent years have brought forth questions about marijuana’s legal standing in the United States. The federal government currently designates marijuana as a Schedule I drug, classifying it as a highly addictive substance with no medical value. Its legal status has led to a lack of federally regulated studies about the plant, and ultimately impedes scientists’ efforts to understand its potential as a healing agent.

The wave of medical marijuana legalization in recent decades has propelled questions of the plant’s medical potential to the forefront of public policy debates. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Support for legalization has increased among voters in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. While the two latter states currently have legislation on the table that will legalize marijuana, parties on both sides of the debate admit that knowledge gaps about marijuana threaten consensus around legislation. In Illinois, lawmakers are mulling expanding the disease list for the state’s medical marijuana program to include anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate would lift barriers to access of medical marijuana for military veterans.

“I am a Vietnam Vet and can only imagine how things would have been,” one war veteran wrote in his petition to have PTSD included among the conditions in Illinois’ medical marijuana program. “While visiting in Colorado I had the benefit of trying cannabis in candy form…. and I felt wonderful. No thoughts of violence, self-deprecation, or hopelessness. My life would be different today.”

Right now, the federal government via NIDA grows a limited supply of marijuana on a Mississippi-based campus, where researchers spend most of their time conducting experiments about the plant’s negative effects rather than its potential positive effects — much to the chagrin of medical marijuana advocates and those who would like to see an expansion of scholarship on the subject.

Federal barriers to research mean that scientists often have to jump through hoops to secure samples legally through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and NIDA, a process that delays research by months, and oftentimes years.
“The whole process is wrong,” Andrew Weil, the American doctor and author who conducted the first double-blind clinical trials of marijuana in 1968, told the Washington Post last year. “There is a great deal of evidence both clinical and anecdotal of its therapeutic effects, but the research has been set way back by government policies.”

That’s why there’s been some pressure to reclassify marijuana. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the government to downgrade marijuana to a Schedule II drug, which would allow for more research into its potential uses to treat sick children with seizures. “A Schedule I listing means there’s no medical use or helpful indications, but we know that’s not true,” Seth Ammerman, a clinical professor in pediatrics at Stanford University who co-authored the group’s policy statement on the subject, said at the time.


VIA Think Progress

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