OG Kush. Skywalker. Pineapple Express. Sour Diesel. Sour Jack.These are the "strains" that medical marijuana consumers are sold, often at premium prices, with the promise that they'll do something special for you.
But a foremost cannabis expert, Jeffrey Raber, who holds a PhD. in chemistry from USC, says it's all BS. Those names don't mean anything, and a forthcoming study he's working on will prove it, Raber tells us. In fact he even disputes the commonly held notion that the two polar types of weed, indica and sativa, produce opposing effects -- specifically that indica is more of a depressant and sativa is more of an upper.
The data shows that indica and sativa is just morphology [the plants' appearance and structure, not their highs]. It's a misperception that indica will put you to sleep or that sativa is more energetic.
To be sure, many of the aforementioned strains pack the punch promised by their purveyors.
But beyond that, especially when it comes to projections of stimulation or relaxation, head trips versus body highs, and strain-specific cures and treatments, it's a crapshoot, Raber says.
There's no scientific basis for the claims being made by pot shops about the effects of their weed, Raber argues. In fact, he says his study is showing that what's being sold as OG Kush in one shop could be something completely different in another.
"Most people don't even know," he says. "We took a popular name, Jack Herer, and found that most didn't even look like each other. OG whatever, Kush whatever, and the marketing that goes along with it -- it's not really medically designed."
The strain study he's working on is analyzing more than 1,000 brands of cannabis sold at pot shops, Raber says. The science involved is called metabolomics and will look at metabolites, cannabinoids, turpenes and 42 other aspects of each sample, he says.
The pot expert plans to see the study published by next spring. He hopes that, in the end, the research will establish new guidelines for naming strains so that they're consistent from dispensary to dispensary and, more importantly, so that they actually mean something to the consumer.
You need a better classification system. We need a new naming system. We're at the forefront of being able to do that.
PROVIDENCE — A Warwick consulting firm has received initial approval from the Health Department to become the first business in Rhode Island to provide assistance to patients seeking to join the state’s growing medical marijuana program.
B&B Consulting LLC, at 300 Toll Gate Rd., got the OK last week in a report from the Committee of the Health Services Council to establish an organized ambulatory care facility that will focus on medical marijuana.
Dr. Michael Fine, director of the Health Department, accepted the committee’s recommendation and gave initial approval to the application.
Jessica Cotton, the firm’s sole owner and administrator, said she thinks that B&B Consulting is the first medical marijuana consulting firm in the nation to gain approval from a state health department. She said that two doctors will make recommendations for patients to gain entry into the medical marijuana program.
“This is the only thing we are doing is medical marijuana evaluations,” Cotton said. “We are all ready. We are all set up.”
She hopes to get final Health Department approval by month’s end.
JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, welcomed B&B Consulting. She said too many patients are turned down by doctors at the Providence Veterans Administration Medical Center and at community health centers. She said the doctors cannot recommend medical marijuana because the hospitals and centers are funded with federal dollars.
Under federal law, marijuana remains an illegal drug that is in the same category as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
She also said that both doctors have a deep knowledge about the drug’s benefits in dealing with certain medical problems. She supported the B&B application to the Health Department.
“Patients would prefer to go to a doctor who knows something about cannabis,” she said.
The two physicians are Dr. Timothy Spurrell and Dr. Thomas Robert Rocco Jr., who will serve as medical director at B&B Consulting. He is licensed in Rhode Island and Wisconsin and board-certified in general surgery.
According to the National Practitioner Data Bank Self Query that is included in the Health Department report, a $150,000 settlement was reached a year ago involving patient allegations that Rocco had performed “a negligent lymph node biopsy which resulted in suprascapular nerve damage and ongoing pain and suffering.” In November 2011, the report states that Rocco’s clinical privileges were reduced at Newport Hospital “as a result of a quality care investigation.”
Spurrell is a licensed physician in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Texas and Maryland and is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.
The doctors, under state law, are required to establish and maintain medical records with qualifying patients for the medical marijuana program. They also must diagnose or confirm the diagnosis that qualifies them for marijuana use.
The state allows marijuana to be used to be used by certified patients for relief from chronic pain, cancer, HIV, AIDS, severe nausea and other ailments.
Once the recommendation is made, the patient goes to the Health Department where a final determination is made on whether the patient can be certified to join the medical marijuana program.
Cotton said that the doctors, who will work two days a week, have evaluated and recommended about 900 people for the medical marijuana program in the past 1½ years. She said that she and her husband, Bill, a patient in the program who suffers from multiple sclerosis, recruited the doctors for the firm.
B&B Consulting’s application to the Health Department also mentions that the firm will be seeking referrals from the Rhode Island Free Clinic and community health centers.
Andrea Bagnall-Degos, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said that 546 doctors in Rhode Island had made recommendations for patients to join the medical marijuana program. She also said that 89 doctors from Massachusetts and Connecticut have done the same for Rhode Island patients.
B&B projects evaluating 647 people the first year; 1,555 in year two; and 1,600 in year three. There will be a $200 charge for the initial medical visit, $140 for consultant services and $50 for a follow-up visit. The services are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other health care insurance plans.
Rhode Island is one of 20 states, and the District of Columbia, with a medical marijuana program. The state’s first two dispensaries opened last spring. A third is expected to open early next year in Warwick.
State law permits only three dispensaries, otherwise known as compassion centers. Today, there are more than 6,700 medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island, a jump of nearly 25 percent from last spring.
By: Daniel B. Wood
A worker in Colorado who undergoes a random drug test is found to test positive for marijuana use, but in less than a month pot-smoking will be legal there. Can a company with a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use still fire that worker, or should it instead adjust its policy on employee drug use?
That's just one of many questions that employers in both Colorado and the state ofWashington are wrestling with as they adjust to new marijuana laws, which as of Jan. 1 will permit individuals to buy and possess up to an ounce of pot.
The issues to consider are legion: How much discretion do firms have over how to handle workers who smoke pot in their nonwork hours? Can some kinds of workers (officers of the law, public transit drivers, school teachers) be held to a stricter standard than others? And perhaps most germane, when does federal law, which still outlaws marijuana possession and use, trump state law?
That last point is beginning to be resolved in the courts, and so far it's coming down on the side of the preeminence of federal law. As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper famously quipped last November, even as the vote tallies showed the measure to legalize recreational marijuana would be approved: "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
"Employers big and small across the state are really struggling with these questions," says Danielle Durban, a Denver-based employment attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP. "They have to come up with testing protocols that don't alienate their own employees but cover themselves from liability, as well," she says. "Most are wishing legislators had given them more direction."
(Read more: Slideshow: A gallery of medical marijuana)
Ms. Durban and many others say answers to many of these questions are likely to be clarified in court cases in coming years.
Two big court cases have already started paving the way, although some experts disagree about their exact implications. Both concern employee use of medical marijuana, which is already legal in Colorado and Washington (as well as 18 other states).
In April, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the firing of a man who is a quadriplegic for his off-the-job use of medical marijuana use. In the case, Coats v. Dish Network, the state appeals court concluded that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, employees have no protection to use it at any time. (The state Supreme Court has not yet said if it will hear the appeal.)
(Read more: New investors lighting up legal marijuana industry)
Then, in August came a ruling from a federal district court in the case of Curry v. MillerCoors. An employee who had tested positive for marijuana was fired under MillerCoors' written drug policy, though he said he had never used marijuana on company premises and had never been under the influence of marijuana at work. "Despite concern for Mr. Curry's medical condition, anti-discrimination law does not extend so far as to shield a disabled employee from the implementation of his employer's standard policies against employee misconduct," wrote Judge John Kane.
"There is a huge tension between states and the federal government on this issue, and employers are caught in the middle," says Mark Spognardi, a Chicago-based attorney who specializes in drug and alcohol testing. "The Colorado Coats case is having an effect far and wide."
The court rulings fly in the face of what the American public apparently expects to be the case concerning worker rights and pot use. Almost two-thirds of Americans say it would be unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for off-the-clock marijuana use in states where using marijuana is legal, compared with 22 percent who say it is acceptable, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll released Nov. 13. The same percentage said it would be unacceptable to fire an employee for off-hours alcohol consumption.
Most employers fall into one of three camps as they consider the new marijuana laws and their own personnel policies, says Kimberly Ryan, a Colorado-based civil rights and employment law specialist.
Adaptable. Some companies are considering policy changes after weighing their hiring reputations against their legal obligations.
Zero tolerance. These employers feel that no worker usage whatsoever is the safest policy, and they rest their case on the rulings in the Coats and Curry lawsuits.
Complicating the debate are employers' needs to comply with federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, which mandates that they make reasonable efforts to accommodate workers' medical issues, and the Family Medical Leave Act, which some analysts say may force companies to grant time off for employees whose medical treatment requires them to take a drug that would cause them to fail a mandatory drug test.
Some employers are looking for guidance from a new Colorado law, which took effect May 28, that defines what constitutes a pot-impaired motorist. It says a driver is considered to be impaired if a blood test shows a level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the primary mind-altering ingredient in marijuana – that is five or more nanograms per milliliter. The state of Washington has established the same THC limit as Colorado for drivers.
But as far the workplace is concerned, analysts say, employers will be establishing their own rules concerning off-hours marijuana use.
"The bottom line is that employers can say, 'These are our rules, and if you violate them, you're fired,' " says Durban.
One problem with establishing legal limits for marijuana is that pot behaves differently in the human body than alcohol, say advocates of legal marijuana.
"We have this notion that since we have a magic number for alcohol, that we are going to have a similar number for marijuana," says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law, which advocates legalization. "The problem is that marijuana is not metabolized and absorbed by the body in the same way alcohol is." Some amounts are retained much longer, and the effect can be hard to gauge, he says.
Daria Serna, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, the state agency charged with regulating the production, sales, and distribution of the drug, says many employers are taking their cue from state law enforcement, which is treating marijuana use in the same way it treats alcohol use.
"If you're not allowed to drink on the job, you're not allowed to smoke [pot] on the job," she says.
But others say a zero-tolerance policy is best, given a degree of uncertainty over how the federal government will respond to the states' new legal-marijuana laws.
"The state passed legalization very easily, but as much as we might disagree, the courts are still telling us we are bound to the federal law," says Sam Kamin, director of constitutional rights and remedies program and professor of law at the University of Denver's Sturm Law School.
Durban and others say employers are unlikely to devise policies that are more lenient toward pot-smoking workers than federal law, because if an employee is impaired and ends up injuring someone, they could be legally liable.
"Businesses here are recognizing that this is a learning process in a whole new direction for the state," says Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry. "Certainly we are going to have to deal with the legal cases as they arise.… For now we're just basing our actions on what we can glean from the current court cases and statutory guidance as we understand it."
As states across the country continue to address the issue of legalizing marijuana, real time data compiled by a crowdsourced website shows how much people are paying for it on the black market, broken down by states, cities, and towns.
See How Much New Englanders Are Paying for Marijuana Below
Looking at the most recent data reported on "The Price of Weed", Massachusetts residents were reporting paying in the upper tier in New England for "medium-quality" marijuana, at $297 an ounce -- with Vermont reporting the highest prices for "high quality" marijuana, at over $326 an ounce.
"These crowd-sourced websites for unregulated prices might not be prevalent or necessary in New England -- right now," said Allen St. Pierre, the Executive Director of NORML -- and Massachusetts native.
NORML's mission is to "move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults."
"Take however the scenario in Los Angeles, where there are over 800 medical marijuana dispensaries downtown alone," St. Pierre continued. "There are consumer-oriented webpages that enjoy a lot of traffic, because people in real time can use technology to determine real time prices."
With Massachusetts in the midst of approving medical marijuana dispensaries, and Worcester County having narrowed down the list of applicants to 13, St. Pierre spoke with GoLocal about the situation unfolding in the Bay State -- and what it might mean for marijuana prices.
Price, Competition, Legalization?
"We won't know how the situation in Massachusetts will unfold until it's finalized. We what know is that Massachusetts is logically moving forward. They're drawing from the example of the other 20 states," said St. Pierre, regarding the other states that have approved medical marijuana.
A recent poll conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute found that 74% respondents in Massachusetts were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. The poll showed that prior to approval of the measure in 2012, the support level was at 63%.
Nationally, a Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans were in favor of full-scale legalization; however, the Western New England University poll found that only 41% of Massachusetts respondents would approval legalization -- and 51% would be against it.
"The main opposition in Washington State [to full legalization] wasn't law enforcement, religious groups, business organizations...it came from the medical cannabis industry," said St. Pierre. "They fear competition."
St. Pierre talked to the situation unfolding in Colorado. "The price is dropping like a rock there, " he said. "The last time I went, the average price was $135 an ounce. Now that there's regulations -- and taxation -- the distributors are seeing their profit margin getting cut."
Last week, voters in Colorado approved a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales, and a ten percent sales tax on legalized marijuana, which was approved in the state in 2012.
"Lawmakers might take revenue into consideration," said St. Pierre regarding some states elected officials at legalization. "It's really a product of this economy that's driving that discussion, the fact that we find ourselves in crushing economic times."
Returning to the issue of prices, St. Pierre said, "In the end, I don't think there will be medical marijuana market operating parallel to a legal, regulated marijuana market."
Opposition to Legalization
Kevin Sabet with Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) addressed the issues of tax revenue as part of the legalization conversation.
SAM, which "believes in an approach that neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana," is currently chaired by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
"States may see [revenue] at first -- just like they saw alcohol, tobacco, and the Lottery that way -- but they are in for a rude awakening," said Sabet. "We know, for example, that every $1 gained alcohol and tobacco tax revenue costs society $10 -- in the form of low productivity, accidents, and health care costs. Why should we expect marijuana--which combines the intoxicating properties of alcohol with the lung damage associated with smoking -- to be any different?"
Sabet continued, "Society will have to pay for increased regulations (including increased law enforcement and spending on new government bureaucracies to manage legalization) along with costs associated with increased car accidents, school dropouts, workforce problems, etc. Even though a minority of all of the marijuana users will have problems (just like a minority of overall drinkers have major alcohol problems), that small number of users will incur a huge cost to society."
Sabet compared the legalization of marijuana to the tobacco industry.
"I think the pro-side will continue to make the scientifically dubious argument that legalization keeps drugs away from kids (since drug dealers don't ask for ID) even though we know that as a substance is more widely available, normalized and commercialized, it becomes used and abused. Alcohol is a case in point: kids have easy access to beer even though its use is supposed to be illegal until age 21. I think the anti-side will rightfully express doubts that the commercial, legal market won't exploit kids and target vulnerable populations," said Sabet.
"There is middle ground, though, found in the idea that we don't have to jail low-level marijuana users or saddle them with criminal records while at the same time not legalizing and commercializing a new addictive substance. We have dealt with Big Tobacco for 80 years - why would we want to usher in Big Marijuana now?
St. Pierre took issue with how the issue was presented by SAM, who he said he hoped he could "work together with" at NORML.
"They're conflating marijuana and tobacco. -- I'm glad to see tobacco use being halted, but we didn't do it by prohibition," said St. Pierre.
"If we want to see Americans make the choice to use marijuana or not, we have a model in place, which is a progressive taxation model," he continued. "A vice tax does deter people, and especially youth."
Med: $326.26/oz (n=210)
High: $380.11/oz (n=267)
Low: $187.06/oz (n=24)
#2 New Hampshire
Med: $312.57/oz (n=415)
High: $377.1/oz (n=401)
Low: $608.01/oz (n=34)
Med: $297.85 (n=2325)
High: $359.82 (n=2716)
Low: $216.34 (n=211)
Med: $275.11oz (n=1213)
High: $352.8/oz (n=1216)
Low: $261.74/oz (n=88)
Med: $250.52/oz (n=396)
High: $323.33/oz (n=424)
Low: $227.68/oz (n=49)
#6 Rhode Island
Med: $255.9/oz (n=342)
High: $334.16/oz (n=497)
Low: $204.2/oz (n=32)
Marijuana has become more widely studied recently for its medicinal properties, but the area is no longer limited to people suffering from pain, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, sleeplessness or disease-induced anorexia. It has now been discovered that breast cancer patients are helped with marijuana through direct anticancer actions that the cannabis species is able to provide.
Marijuana contains 21 carbon-containing compounds called cannabinoids. They have been found to prevent, and even destroy, tumors by many different mechanisms. Cannabinoids can induce cancer cell death, inhibit cell growth and prevent spreading of the cancerous cells, while helping to prevent healthy cells from being damaged or invaded by the cancer. The cannabinoids do not harm or inhibit healthy cells in any way; they actually have protective effects on them. It is in this way that the use of compounds in marijuana has a potential as a treatment far superior to other existing ones, like chemotherapy, which also damages the healthy cells.
Breast cancer patients can be helped by marijuana if they merely want to have it as an adjunct to more standard Western medical practices. It can be ingested in capsule form, smoked, or added to a food. In these instances, marijuana provides relief to symptoms commonly experienced as side effects to chemotherapy and radiation. Cannabinoids have been consistently shown to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety and loss of appetite.
A patient does not need to smoke or eat the marijuana in order to achieve these benefits. The sense of euphoria, time distortion, or short-term memory loss is not experienced from the cannabinoids used to combat cancer. In order for the anticancer effects to be optimized, highly concentrated extracts are put into capsules and administered to patients.
So far effective results have been achieved in lab animals, but have yet to be fully replicated in human subjects. Studies are underway that could open up a whole new approach to breast cancer treatment. In addition, research has found there to be significant protective effects that can help prevent cancers from developing to begin with.
This could prove especially useful for those who are aware that they possess a higher genetic predisposition to certain cancers. At this point in time, use of marijuana-based treatments for cancer have not been approved by the FDA. This will be very unlikely to occur anytime in the near future either. The production of these medications is much cheaper than standard current therapies and they also do not require ongoing intensive monitoring by healthcare professionals.
A patient can safely self-administer a cannabinoid medication at home, as it has extremely low toxicity and has virtually no associated side effects. This could open up a whole new frontier to breast cancer patients who are frequently overwhelmed by doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy treatments and tests. A breast cancer patient can be helped with marijuana to beat the illness while maintaining a normal day-to-day life. It is extremely necessary that the general population and those affected by cancer push for further research and to have that research acknowledged by the FDA. Until that happens, these treatments will continue to be forced underground and only perpetuate any stigma that still exists for medical marijuana.
By Lara Stielow
WARWICK — It’s been a big year for medical marijuana in Rhode Island.
The first two dispensaries, also known as compassion centers, opened last spring in Providence and Portsmouth and began selling high-grade marijuana to registered patients suffering from ailments such as HIV-AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, stress and eating disorders.
They have more than twice as many customers as they were hoping to land after their first year of business.
At the same time, the number of patients in the program has jumped nearly 25 percent in the past seven months, to slightly fewer than 7,000 patients.
Now, the third and final dispensary, Summit Medical Compassion Center Inc., plans to open a large-scale operation in Warwick that will feature a store and cultivation center in an industrial area off Route 95.
Summit has submitted an application to the state Department of Health with more than 300 pages of documents that provide details about the dispensary’s location, business plan, hiring and projections for the next three years. It isn’t Summit’s first proposal.
In 2011, Governor Chafee refused to issue registration certificates to Slater, Greenleaf and Summit for more than a year. Slater and Greenleaf were not fazed by the restrictions, and they pressed ahead with their dispensaries.
Summit had submitted an ambitious proposal to be the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the state. That plan was so big that Chafee worried that Summit could be the subject of a raid by federal authorities. At his urging, the General Assembly passed legislation that limited the number of plants a dispensary could grow to 99 mature plants and 51 seedlings. They also can have a maximum of 1,500 ounces of marijuana ready for sale.
Summit seemed to hesitate, and its plans to open a dispensary and cultivation center on Post Road and Strawberry Field Road fell through.
But two months ago, Summit submitted a new application for a registration certificate. Its projections are more modest than its initial proposal. The application projects that the operation will have 1,105 patients after the first year and 1,610 by the end of year two. During that same time period, revenues from marijuana sales are expected to jump from $3.1 million nearly $4.1 million.
Summit’s staff also is expected to increase from 19 to 39 employees.
Camille Vella-Wilkinson, a Warwick city councilor who represents Ward 3, home of the Summit marijuana operation, is a big supporter of the new business. She said that she attended several state Health Department hearings and learned that medical marijuana was a safer alternative than prescription drugs. She also said that marijuana was cheaper than having patients “pilling up.”
She also said that Summit will bring good-paying jobs, many that pay more than $50,000 a year, to the city.
“I’m absolutely in favor of this,” Vella-Wilkinson said.
The center will lease two buildings with plenty of space. The cultivation center, which will be used to grow marijuana, is at 66 Illinois Ave. and covers 9,660 square feet, while the compassion center, or retail store where the cannabis will be sold, is at 380 Jefferson Blvd., Unit E-2, which has 7,285 square feet of space.
The cavernous buildings with high ceilings are about 500 yards apart, on opposite sides of Jefferson Boulevard.
The sole financier of Summit is Cuttino Mobley, the former University of Rhode Island and NBA basketball star, who made tens of millions of dollars during his 11-year career as an NBA player.
Mobley is providing the dispensary with a $3.5-million line of credit with an annual interest rate of 6 percent that will not commence until the second year of Summit’s operation. He also will kick in $500,000 that will not be repaid.
According to Summit’s proposal, $2.8 million of the credit line will be used to build out the compassion and cultivation centers.
In terms of square footage and projections, Summit, with 16,945 square feet for its compassion and cultivation centers, will be the largest of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Under state law, only three dispensaries are permitted in Rhode Island.
Armand C. Spaziano, Summit’s president and chairman of its board of directors, said “it’s not the goal to be the biggest. The goal is to be efficient and safe.”
The security team includes Napolean “Nappy” Brito, a retired Providence police officer who ran the department’s Bureau of Criminal Identification; and Robert A. McQueeney, a retired state police captain, who serves on Summit’s board of directors.
Summit plans to overhaul the buildings that will house the compassion and cultivation centers this winter and open for business a few months after the new year. Andrea Bagnall-Degos, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said that a public comment session during which residents can express concerns about the business ends on Dec. 13.
Based on those comments, the department can recommend changes and schedule an on-site inspection. The operating license will be issued after the state police inspect the buildings to make sure a proper security system is in place.
Right now, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, at 1 Corliss St., in Providence, and Greenleaf Compassionate Care, at 1637 West Main Rd., in Portsmouth, are open for business.
Slater’s retail store and cultivation center are housed in the same building, which is 13,750 square feet. Greenleaf grows and sells marijuana in a modest 2,800-square-foot post-and-beam building that serves patients on Aquidneck Island.
Slater was the first to open in mid-April; Greenleaf launched its business in early June.
So far, sales have been booming at each dispensary. At the outset, Slater officials were hoping to have 550 registered patients within the first six months and 1,000 patients by May 31, 2014. Greenleaf was optimistic that it could quickly attract 200 patients.
Figures from the Health Department show Slater now has 2,277 patients and Greenleaf has reached 546 patients, far surpassing the projections.
Chris Reilly, Slater’s spokesman, said the numbers reflect the demand that patients have for high-grade medicinal marijuana.
“Our staff is working hard every day to help registered patients get high-quality medicine in a safe environment,” he said. “It’s an enormous responsibility to care for people suffering from serious and often terminal illnesses. We are proud to play a small part in helping improve the lives of these folks.”
Added Seth Bock, co-owner of Greenleaf: “Patients seem satisfied with the spectrum of unique varieties we offer, as well as the excellent quality and relative affordability of the medicine and products we sell.”
Bock also said that Greenleaf has launched a “collaborative epidemiological study” with Miriam Hospital in Providence to determine which varieties of the marijuana plant best treat certain ailments.
The advent of the two dispensaries has resulted in a surge of patients in the state medical marijuana program. Today, there are 6,720 patients in the program, a 24.8-percent jump from the 5,386 who were registered just seven months ago. At the same time, the number of registered caregivers, who grow marijuana and provide the drug to as many as five patients, has declined from 3,589 to 3,513.
JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said the two compassion centers have been well-received and she’s pleased to see that Greenleaf has dropped its prices of marijuana to less than $250. She said many patients are on fixed incomes and can’t afford to pay $300 to $400 a month for an ounce.
“Patients have been very happy with the compassion centers,” she said. “But the prices can be challenging.”
Slater offers edible marijuana products such as cookies, brownies and flavored lozenges. Greenleaf hopes to have a marijuana baking kitchen up and running before year’s end, and Summit has similar plans. Proponents of medical marijuana say it’s more effective and safer to ingest the medicine than to smoke it.
Greenleaf and Summit also want to start delivery service for patients who are too ill to travel to the dispensaries. All three offer other services such as pain management, educational material, nutrition, yoga and Reiki.
Slater does not make deliveries.
Rhode Island is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana. All six New England states have passed laws that permit registered patients to use the drug to cope with a variety of ailments, but so far, only Rhode Island (2); Vermont (4); and Maine (8) have opened dispensaries for patients to buy marijuana.
Massachusetts is expected to have as many as 35 marijuana centers next year, while Connecticut officials predict that three to five may open in 2014.
Maine has more than 16,000 patients in its medical marijuana program, far more than the other five New England states, and Rhode Island is second with more than 6,700 patients.
Mobley, the former NBA star, has made big waves in both states where he starred on the basketball court before turning pro. He attended Maine Central Institute, a prep school basketball powerhouse, before he enrolled at URI.
Aside from providing $4 million to Summit, Mobley has financed four of the dispensaries in Maine with a $1.6-million line of credit over eight years. The loan was made with an annual interest rate of 8.5 percent.
Could the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island be far behind?
In 2012, voters approved the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. And, on Nov. 5, voters in Portland, Maine, overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana for residents 21 and older, making the city the first on the East Coast to OK recreational cannabis.
Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence, who has introduced legalization legislation the past two years, plans to try again in 2014. She said that prohibition isn’t working and permitting marijuana for those 21 and older would result in greater regulation.
“I think it gains traction every year,” she said. “I’m sure that we will move closer, but it’s an election year and it does tend to make my colleagues more hesitant.”
According to a new study published last week by the National Institute of Health, cannabis may be an effective treatment in curing people of addiction from hard drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
According to researchers, this study “presents an up-to-date review with deep insights into the pivotal role of the ECBS [endocannabinod system] in the neurobiology of stimulant addiction and the effects of its modulation on addictive behaviors. They state that; “A growing number of studies support a critical role of the ECBS and its modulation by synthetic or natural cannabinoids in various neurobiological and behavioral aspects of stimulants addiction.”
For the study, researchers found that “cannabinoids modulate brain reward systems closely involved in stimulants addiction, and provide further evidence that the cannabinoid system could be explored as a potential drug discovery target for treating addiction across different classes of stimulants.”
The study, which was conducted at the Psychiatry Research Unit at Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal in Canada, can be viewed by clicking here.
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.
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.
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