Releaf Magazine
21Aug/140

MN mom facing charges for treating son’s chronic pain in CO with medical marijuana

A Minnesota mother was charged with two misdemeanors after giving her teenage son medicinal marijuana to help alleviate pain from a traumatic brain injury.

Angela Brown said an acquaintance apparently reported her to family services after taking her 15-year-old son, Trey, to Boulder, Colorado, in the spring to buy medical marijuana oil, reported KARE-TV.

“Everything was great until I opened my mouth to the wrong person and I got turned in, and family services questioned my son at school, the cops came to my workplace,” Brown said.

Trey was struck in the temple by a line drive while pitching in a baseball game three years ago, and his mother said the teen has harmed himself and contemplated suicide due to severe pain.

An emergency room physician recommended the family trying medical marijuana, and Brown said the drug worked exactly as she had hoped.

“Trey would describe it as reducing the pressure in his head,” she said. “He didn’t have the pressure anymore and his muscles would calm down.”

Family services eventually dropped the case after talking to Brown and her husband, but the Lac Qui Parle County attorney decided to criminally charge her.

“I guess their definition of a good mom would have been a mom who sat back, let the doctors do whatever, and possibly let their child die,” Brown said. “I guess a bad a mom chooses to go find answers for her child and chooses to treat her child and takes his pain away, so if they want to call me a bad mom, then fine.”

Medical marijuana will be legal in Minnesota starting next July, and pro-pot advocates say they were “stunned” by the child endangerment charges filed against Brown.

“I can’t think of an instance where an individual has been brought up on charges like this simply because the effective date hasn’t come around yet for the law that has already been passed,” said Bob Capecchi, of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Let’s not forget — there is a medical marijuana law that has been endorsed by the legislature and by the governor.”

Capecchi said prosecutors have discretion over bringing charges in individual cases, and he said Brown’s case seems “tailor-made” to have the charges dropped.

The family has asked Gov. Mark Dayton for help, but they have not heard from him, and Brown said she and her family may move to Colorado after her court appearance in late September.

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Via Raw Story

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20Aug/140

Marijuana Prohibition Wastes $20 Billion Every Year [Infographic]

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Via Toke Signals

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19Aug/140

Legal Marijuana for Parents, but Not Their Kids

When the antidrug educator Tim Ryan talks to students, he often asks them what they know about marijuana. “It’s a plant,” is a common response.

But more recently, the answer has changed. Now they reply, “It’s legal in Colorado.”

These are confusing times for middle and high school students, who for most of their young lives have been lectured about the perils of substance abuse, particularly marijuana. Now it seems that the adults in their lives have done an about-face.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and in Washington, and many other states have approved it for medical use. Lawmakers, the news media and even parents are debating the merits of full-scale legalization.

“They are growing up in a generation where marijuana used to be bad, and maybe now it’s not bad,” said Mr. Ryan, a senior prevention specialist with FCD Educational Services, an antidrug group that works with students in the classroom.

“Their parents are telling them not to do it, but they may be supporting legalization of it at the same time.”

Antidrug advocates say efforts to legalize marijuana have created new challenges as they work to educate teenagers and their parents about the unique risks that alcohol, marijuana and other drugs pose to the developing teenage brain.

These educators say their goal is not to vilify marijuana or take a stand on legalization; instead, they say their role is to convince young people and their parents that the use of drugs is not just a moral or legal issue, but a significant health issue.

“The health risks are real,” said Steve Pasierb, the chief executive of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Every passing year, science unearths more health risks about why any form of substance use is unhealthy for young people.”

Already nearly half of teenagers — 44 percent — have tried marijuana at least once, according to data from the partnership. Regular use is less common. One in four teenagers report using marijuana in the past month, and 7 percent report frequent use — at least 20 times in the past month.

Even in the states where marijuana is legal, it remains, like alcohol, off-limits to anyone younger than 21. But the reality is that once a product becomes legal, it becomes much easier for underage users to obtain it.

This summer, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released its annual tracking study, in which young people were asked what stopped them from trying drugs. Getting into trouble with the law and disappointing their parents were cited as the two most common reason young people did not use marijuana. The concern now is that legalization will remove an important mental barrier that keeps adolescents from trying marijuana at a young age.

“Making it legal makes it much more accessible, more available,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This is the reality, so what we need to do is to prevent the damage or at least minimize it as much as possible.”

Drug prevention experts say the “Just Say No” approach of the 1980s does not work. The goal of parents should not be to prevent their kids from ever trying marijuana.

Instead, the focus should be on practical reasons to delay use of any mind-altering substance, including alcohol, until they are older.

The reason is that young brains continue to develop until the early 20s, and young people who start using alcohol or marijuana in their teens are far more vulnerable to long-term substance-abuse problems.

The brain is still wiring itself during adolescence, and marijuana — or any drug use — during this period essentially trains the reward system to embrace a mind-altering chemical.

“We know that 90 percent of adults who are addicted began use in teenage years,” Mr. Pasierb said. “They programmed the reward and drive center of their teenage brain that this is one of those things that rewards and drives me like food does, like sex does.”

Studies in New Zealand and Canada have found that marijuana use in the teenage years can result in lost I.Q. points. Mr. Pasierb says the current generation of young people are high achievers and are interested in the scientific evidence about how substance use can affect intelligence.

“You have to focus on brain maturation,” he said. “This generation of kids wants good brains; they want to get into better schools. Talk to a junior or senior about whether marijuana use shaves a couple points off their SATs, and they will listen to you.”

Because early exposure to marijuana can change the trajectory of brain development, even a few years of delaying use in the teen years is better. Research shows that young adults who smoked pot regularly before the age of 16 performed significantly worse on cognitive function tests than those who started smoking in their later teenage years.

Drug educators say that one benefit of the legalization talk is that it may lead to more research on the health effects of marijuana on young people and more funding for antidrug campaigns.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids plans to continue its “Above the Influence” marketing campaign, which studies show has been an effective way of reaching teenagers about the risks of drug use. The campaign does not target a specific drug, but it teaches parents and teens about the health effects of early drug use and tries to empower teens to make good choices.

“Legalization is going to make the work we do even more relevant,” Mr. Pasierb said. “It’s part of the changing drug landscape.”

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Via Well

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17Aug/140

Expect marijuana vaporizers in Oscar gift bags next year

Who knew that losing at the Oscars could be such a high honor?

Nominees who don’t win an Academy Award at the February 2015 ceremony will walk away with a gift bag that contains a portable pot vaporizer for the first time.

The Haze Vaporizer by Haze technologies will be nestled in the gift bag handed to losing nominees for Hollywood’s top prize in the Best actor, Best actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director categories, along with other big-ticket items.

Last year, that included $85,000 worth of swag, including a $15,000 walking tour of Japan, vouchers for flights around the world, a luxury phone case, artwork and almost $1,000-worth of weight-loss products.

The gift bags have contained e-cigarettes before, but this is the first year they’ll feature a hand-held vaporizer. The $250 Haze is ostensibly marketed for tobacco consumption, but they’re much more commonly used to puff on marijuana without the harsh burn of a bong or the odor of a joint.

Of course, it’s too early to know who’ll be at Oscar night, but Haze CEO Taylan Saydar says he hopes one noted Hollywood pot smoker will be there: Kristen Stewart.

“She’s superliberal, young and she has a lot of followers,” he says. “She’s my favorite.”

The gift bags are arranged by Distinctive Assets, which for 13 years has handed out its “Everyone Wins at the Oscars” consolation prize bags. Founder Lash Fary usually hosts televised events showing off the gift bag swag before the ceremony.

“It’s definitely a big step in exposing vaporizers not just to our niche market but to everyone,” Haze spokesman Jason Azurmendi says.

Vaporizers are becoming more popular as weed (and tobacco) smokers around the country get turned on to their medical benefits (not damaging your lungs with harsh smoke, for instance).

Haze, about the size and shape of a small flask, operates differently from other vaporizers by offering two bowls. That lets users double up on whatever they’re smoking, or mix weed with tobacco; the spliff of vaporizer technology, if you will.

The company, which launched the vaporizers over the summer, wanted to get in front of the Hollywood market to gain exposure, Saydar says.

“A lot of organizations are trying to make people aware of the downside of smoking. Everybody is self conscious and looking for ways to still consume nicotine but in a healthy way,” he says. “We are trying to represent the high-end, high-fashion, highly technological product.”

Those gift bags Haze landed in are only getting more swanky, too: they’ve increased in value by $25,000 since 2009.
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Via NY Post

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15Aug/140

It Turns Out That Smoking Marijuana May Actually Make You A Safer Driver

An amazing study authored by professors D. Mark Anderson (University of Montana) and Daniel Rees (University of Colorado) shows that traffic deaths have been reduced in states where medical marijuana is legalized.

According to their findings, the use of medical marijuana has caused traffic related fatalities to fall by nearly nine percent in states that have legalized medical marijuana (via The Truth About Cars).

The study notes that this is equal to the effect raising the drinking age to 21 had on reducing traffic fatalities.

One key factor is the reduction in alcohol consumption. The study finds that there is a direct correlation between the use of marijuana and a reduction in beer sales, especially in the younger folks aged 20-29.

A drop in beer sales supports the theory that marijuana can act as a substitute for liquor.

The study also finds that marijuana has the inverse effect that alcohol does on drivers. Drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to make rash decisions and risky moves, whereas those under the influence of marijuana tend to slow down, make safer choices, and increase following distances.

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Via Business Insider

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13Aug/140

Marijuana Compounds Can Kill Some Cancer Cells: Study

A scientist in the United Kingdom has found that compounds derived from marijuana can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer that is expected to cause an estimated 24,000 deaths in the United States this year.

"Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive," study author Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist at St. George's University of London, told The Huffington Post. "For that reason, it has really good potential over other drugs that only have one function. I am impressed by its activity profile, and feel it has a great future, especially if used with standard chemotherapies."

Liu's study was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research. It was supported by funding from GW Pharmaceuticals, which already makes a cannabis-derived drug used to treat spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.

The study looked at the effects of six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids -- compounds derived from marijuana that do not cause the "high" associated with its THC ingredient -- when applied alone, and in combination, to leukemia cells. Cannabinoids displayed a "diverse range of therapeutic qualities" that "target and switch off" pathways that allow cancers to grow, Liu told U.S. News & World Report.

Liu stressed to HuffPost that his research was built around the testing of the six purified cannabinoid forms -- not traditional cannabis oil, which Liu described as "crude" in comparison and generally containing 80-100 different cannabinoids. "We do not really know which are the ones that will be anticancer and those that may be harmful," Liu said.

During the study, Liu and his team grew leukemia cells in a lab and cultured them with increasing doses of the six pure cannabinoids, both individually and in combination with each other. His study says the six cannabinoids were CBD (Cannabidiol), CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), CBG (Cannbigerol), CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid), CBGV (Cannabigevarin) and CBGVA (Cannabigevaric acid). Liu and his team then assessed the viability of the leukemia cells and determined whether or not the cannabinoids destroyed the cells or stopped them from growing.

Although promising, Liu also said that it remains unclear if the cannabinoid treatment would work on the 200-plus existing types of cancer.

"Cancer is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that fundamentally differ in their cellular makeup, [and] which occur as a result of disturbances to growth controls," Liu said. "Chemotherapy works by disrupting these dysfunctional growth signals. Therefore, any cancers that have these profiles should respond to the chemotherapy. It just so happens that a number of cannabinoids can target these very same mechanisms that make cancer what it is, and so any cancer that exhibits these faults should respond well to cannabinoids. The flip side is, of course, that other cancers may not have these same genetic faults and so cannabinoids may not work as well."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 7.6 million people die from various forms of cancer each year worldwide.

When asked if smoking marijuana has the same or similar effects as ingesting the pure cannabinoid compounds he studied, Liu said he thinks it's unlikely.

"Smoking cannabis introduces a number of potential problems," Liu said. "First, the complex makeup of cannabis that contains about 80 bioactive substances means that the desired anticancer effect may be lost because these compounds may interfere with each other. Second, we see that delivering the drug either by injection or by a tablet would ensure the most effective doses are given. Smoking would be variable, and indeed the heat of the burning may actually destroy the useful nature of the compounds."

In 2012, researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that CBD (cannbidiol), a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer.

The National Cancer Institute has also funded some research into cannabis and cancer, including a 2012 study that looked at the effects cannabis compounds have on slowing the progression of breast cancer, spokesman Michael Miller told U.S. News and World Report. However NCI has not funded research on the effects of cannabinoids on leukemia.

Liu stressed that much work is still needed, and said that finding support for marijuana-derived medicines can be polarizing.

"Although there is much promise, I struggle to find enough support to drive this work on," Liu said. "The mention of cannabinoids can polarize the public, who understandably link cannabis smoking with cannabis-derived drugs."

Liu told the Seattle PI's Pot Blog that he hopes to start clinical trials involving humans in 12 to 18 months.

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Via Huffington Post

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11Aug/140

Colorado Recreational Pot Sales Total $24.7 Million in June, a New Record

Marijuana saleswoman Marissa Dodd talks to a customer about different varieties of marijuana available at the Dr. Reefer marijuana dispensary at the University of Colorado in Boulder (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado reached a new record in June, with dispensaries selling $24.7 million worth of weed, reports the Associated Press. That marks a 19 percent increase from May. In the first six months of 2014, recreational marijuana sales in Colorado totaled $115 million, which has translated into $20 million for the taxman, notes Colorado Public Radio. Recreational and medical pot sales totaled a whopping $308 million during the January-June period. While medical sales continue to outpace recreational purchases, the trend could soon shift as more recreational stores open. There are around 120 recreational pot dispensaries in the state, compared to some 500 medical storefronts.

Meanwhile, stores sold a little less than $3.8 million of weed in Washington in July, the first month of legal pot sales in the state. That would translate into a little more than $1 million in cash for state coffers, according to the Associated Press. “It’s off to a healthy start, considering that the system isn’t fully up and running yet,” said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington Liquor Control Board.

Earlier in the week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released the results of a survey that revealed a slight drop in the percentage of teenagers who have used marijuana in the last month even as the number of high school students in the state who believe pot is harmful has also declined, reports Reuters. The percentage of teenagers who believe marijuana poses “a moderate to serious risk” declined four percentage points to 54 percent. Even so, the number who acknowledged taking marijuana in the past month declined two percentage points to 20 percent.

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Via Slate

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9Aug/140

Is New York Too Corrupt for Medical Marijuana?

New York’s recently signed medical marijuana law mandates that the state Department of Health decide who gets to grow and sell prescription cannabis, but a co-sponsor of the legislation warns there’s a “99 percent” chance the licensing process will be corrupt unless qualifying growers are selected at random.

Under the Compassionate Care Act, set to go into effect within 18 months, the DOH will approve five growers, which may open up to four dispensaries each. Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown), who co-sponsored the legislation in the Assembly, tells Newsweek: “There is a 99 percent chance that the selection process for these five dispensaries will be corrupted if the process is not done as a lottery.”

Katz warned of the possibility for corruption on Thursday, where he spoke at The National Cannabis Industry Association and Ideal 420 Cultivation Soil’s ”first-ever educational luncheon” in New York City.

As marijuana-minded entrepreneurs feasted on hollandaise-drizzled New York Strip at a tony New American bistro in midtown, Katz spoke of the need for an impartial selection process. According to Katz, who had voted against medical marijuana in 2012 but started publicly supporting it after being arrested in March 2013 on possession charges, the “only way it can be done” is for qualifying applicants to receive “a little round ball w/ a number on it...to be chosen on a given day by a very respected person in the state, who’s going to pick out five numbers and those are going to be the winners, period. No exceptions.”

In conversation with Newsweek and during his speech, Katz said a culture of corruption throughout state government strengthened his case for impartial selection. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he pointed out, is under federal investigation for shutting down the Moreland Commission, which is charged with investigating corruption.

“Corruption obviously comes from the top in this state,” Katz also said to Newsweek. The governor’s office did not reply to Newsweek’s request for comment. The Department of Health did not immediately comment.

Asked whether corruption could be a problem, New York State Senator and Senate bill sponsor Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) told Newsweek that “Apparently Steven thinks so,” but that “it wasn’t an issue that occurred to me, quite frankly.”

Savino said she is concerned that the legislation is too narrow in scope and that an industry comprised of five license holders -- and a maximum of 20 dispensaries -- is “completely insufficient for a state this size.”

“The governor likes to say all the time ‘New York is ready for business.’ The question is, is it really open for this business if you’re already a marijuana grower and you look at the restrictions that could be placed on the New York market -- do you want to invest here?”

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Via Newsweek

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8Aug/140

Medical Marijuana User Sues Company That Fired Her

A woman in New Mexico is suing a company she says fired her for failing a drug test, even though she had a state-issued medical marijuana card. The ex-employee, Donna Smith, says Presbyterian Health Services’ decision to terminate her violates the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with serious medical conditions.

Smith’s attorney, Jason Flores-Williams, argues it’s “absolute hypocrisy” to punish employees for outside-work use of doctor-advised marijuana, but not alcohol, Adderall, or antidepressants. Smith, a physician’s assistant, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 1997 after serving in the military.

Presbyterian says it did nothing wrong, and was just following federal guidelines on protecting its other employees’ rights. “Presbyterian is committed to patient safety and we believe that a drug free workplace is a key component,” PHS Senior Vice President Joanne Suffis said in an e-mailed statement. “The use of medical marijuana is not recognized by federal law and Presbyterian has a mandate under federal law to provide a drug free workplace.” (Update: In an e-mail, Presbyterian’s communications director Kristen Krebs clarified that Smith was hired through an outside staffing agency. “Upon learning of the positive test for marijuana, Presbyterian informed the staffing agency that we did not wish to continue her assignment at Presbyterian,” Krebs writes. “Presbyterian did not ask Ms. Smith’s outside staffing agency to terminate its employment of her.”)

STORY: Even Pot Dealers Need Insurance. The Problem Is, Where to Get It?
Smith’s is the latest in a series of suits involving workers who say they were fired for using medical marijuana in the 20 states that allow it. Those conflicts could presage similar controversies in states that legalize recreational marijuana. While certain states, like Arizona, offer specific protection against getting punished at work for using medical marijuana at home, most don’t. In a pending Colorado Supreme Court case, justices will have to decide whether that state’s ban on firing people for “lawful activity” outside of work (a ban only a few states have) applies to medical marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

By citing anti-discrimination protections, Smith’s case goes the other way, and seeks status specifically for pot smokers with medical conditions. The strategy has been tried before, without success: In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected (PDF) a lawsuit from medical marijuana users brought under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, but that decision was based on language in the ADA specifically stating it doesn’t protect illegal drug use.

“As far as medical patients are concerned, a lot of these people aren’t able to work unless they’re using marijuana—and then they’re prevented from working once they’re using it,” says Jessica Gelay, the Drug Policy Alliance’s policy coordinator for New Mexico. Win or lose, Gelay argues, cases such as Smith’s demonstrate why medical or recreational marijuana laws should include employment protections for at-home marijuana use. “As long as they’re not coming to work impaired,” says Gelay, “it should be none of the employer’s business.”

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Via Business Week

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5Aug/140

The federal government’s own statistics show that marijuana is safer than alcohol

By Christopher Ingraham

July 31
Opponents of marijuana legalization return to one particular number over and over in their arguments: the number of emergency room visits involving marijuana. This ONDCP fact sheet breathlessly reports that "mentions of marijuana use in emergency room visits have risen 176 percent since 1994, surpassing those of heroin." The Drug Enforcement Administration's "Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse," a 41-page tour-de-force of decontextualized factoids, reports that marijuana was involved in nearly half a million E.R. visits in 2011, second only to cocaine.

The problem, of course, is that these numbers are meaningless without knowing how many people are using those drugs to start with. When you consider that there are approximately 70 times more marijuana users than heroin users in the United States, it makes sense that more of the former are going to the hospital than the latter.

Since the government doesn't provide these comparisons in a meaningful way, I've done it myself below. The raw numbers behind the chart are in a table at the end of this post.

The methodology is important here, so I hope you'll forgive a few paragraphs on where these numbers came from.

For 2010, the latest year for which complete alcohol data are available, I grabbed the number of regular users from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. "Regular," in this case, means people who report using a given substance in the past month.

I then grabbed 2010 E.R. visits involving these substances from the Drug Abuse Warning Network. This is a hospital reporting system that collects detailed data on all E.R. admissions involving a given drug. These E.R. visits can involve the use of multiple substances, so the numbers for each drug involve all visits for which that drug was listed as a contributing factor.

Since the Drug Abuse Warning Network doesn't provide information on alcohol-related visits, I obtained the numbers for all E.R. visits involving alcohol from a 2010 National Institutes of Health report.

The figures clearly show that on a per-user basis, marijuana is considerably less likely to send you to the E.R. than heroin, cocaine or meth. Marijuana users are also 75 percent less likely to face an E.R. visit than prescription drug abusers.

But most surprisingly, marijuana is significantly safer to use than alcohol. For every thousand regular alcohol drinkers there are eight more trips to the E.R. than for every thousand marijuana users. Or in other words, alcohol is about 30 percent more likely to send you to the E.R. than marijuana.

These are all the federal government's own numbers, and they show that marijuana is considerably less harmful to users than alcohol. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this comports with just about every other credible study of the drug.

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Via The Washington Post

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