By MATT RICHTEL MARCH 27, 2017
LOS ANGELES — Nine days after Nikolas Michaud’s latest heroin relapse, the skinny 27-year-old sat on a roof deck at a new drug rehabilitation clinic here. He picked up a bong, filled it with a pinch of marijuana, lit the leaves and inhaled.
All this took place in plain view of the clinic’s director.
“The rules here are a little lax,” Mr. Michaud said. In almost any other rehab setting in the country, smoking pot would be a major infraction and a likely cause for being booted out. But here at High Sobriety — the clinic with a name that sounds like the title of a Cheech and Chong comeback movie — it is not just permitted, but part of the treatment.
The new clinic is experimenting with a concept made possible by the growing legalization of marijuana: that pot, rather than being a gateway into drugs, could be a gateway out.
A small but growing number of pain doctors and addiction specialists are overseeing the use of marijuana as a substitute for more potent and dangerous drugs. Dr. Mark Wallace, chairman of the division of pain medicine in the department of anesthesia at the University of California, San Diego, said over the last five years he has used marijuana to help several hundred patients transition off opiates.
“The majority of patients continue to use it,” he said of marijuana. But he added that they tell him of the opiates: “I feel like I was a slave to that drug. I feel like I have my life back.”
Dr. Wallace is quick to note that his evidence is anecdotal and more study is needed. Research in rats, he said, supports the idea that the use of cannabinoids can induce withdrawal from heavier substances. But in humans?
A report published in January from the National Academy of Sciences on the health effects of cannabis “found no evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for achieving abstinence in the use of addictive substances,” said Dr. Marie McCormick, a Harvard professor who was the chairwoman of the report committee.
The group’s research did find strong evidence to support that cannabis or its main psychoactive compound, cannabinoid, can be used to treat chronic pain in adults. But that is different from using it safely and effectively to wean people off drugs, and some experts in the addiction field are highly skeptical.
Read more here.
By David Garrick Contact Reporter
MARCH 24, 2017
Crafting comprehensive state marijuana regulations this year will likely be a turbulent process of trial and error, California’s top marijuana official told a few dozen San Diego industry leaders during a forum this week.
Lori Ajax, chief of California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, also said that once new regulations are in place in January the state may crack down on illegal marijuana operations that local jurisdictions have struggled to close.
Ajax also expressed some optimism the state could help marijuana businesses get access to banks despite the drug still being illegal under federal law, but said any changes to local tax rates would need to start at the grass roots level.
On some issues unique to San Diego, such as U.S. Border Patrol agents possibly blocking transportation of marijuana that is allowed under state law, Ajax said she didn’t have any answers yet.
Ajax assured the audience, however, that her staff is moving full speed ahead despite recent comments from the Trump administration that enforcement of the federal marijuana ban could resume.
"We have so little time to wring our hands about that," she said. "We have to get this done so I'm focusing on what's in my control, and that's not in my control."
The main theme of her hour-long question-and-answer session at San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Thursday was that crafting regulations will be a work in progress followed by a period of awkward transition once they’re in place.
She’s facing time pressure because Proposition 64, which was approved by 57 percent of state voters on Nov. 8, requires the new regulations be in place by Jan. 1.
Her agency plans to unveil proposed regulations for medical marijuana in late April and then, after the state Legislature sorts out which of nearly four dozen proposed bills under consideration will become law, propose recreational regulations in late summer or early fall.
Ajax urged the group of local industry leaders, which included attorneys, dispensary owners, cultivators and operators of delivery services, to take an active role in commenting on the proposals during a 45-day period after they are unveiled.
"They are proposed regulations — not final," she said. "The whole reason we have a 45-day comment period is for you to comment, and we expect we may be changing stuff."
And even after the regulations become law, Ajax predicted there would be changes based on how the rules perform in real-world situations.
"This industry evolves very, very quickly so we have to be ready if some of our regulations aren't working the way we thought they would — we need to be ready to make changes,” she said. "Not everything is going to be OK on Day 1 — there's going to be a transition."
Her chief concerns, she said, are whether there will be enough licensed labs to test all of the marijuana — which will be a requirement under state law — and whether cities and counties will approve enough distributors to get the drugs to dispensaries.
Testing labs need expensive equipment and rigorous certifications, creating significant barriers to entry, she said.
Read more here.
A synthetic marijuana product could be available for commercialization after the DEA gave a newly approved drug a schedule II classification.
On Thursday, Insys Therapeutics announced that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an interim final rule that would put Syndros, their synthetic marijuana drug, on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
“Insys is looking forward to bringing this new drug product to chemotherapy patients to help alleviate their nausea and vomiting and AIDS patients with anorexia associated weight loss, respectively,” Dr. Santosh Vetticaden, interim CEO, said in the announcement.
“We look forward to interacting with the FDA to finalize the labeling and subsequent launch of Syndros in the second half of 2017,” Vetticaden said.
Syndros is a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component in the plant. In July 206, the company announced the FDA approved their liquid form of synthetic THC to treat anorexia associated AIDS patients, and nausea and vomiting induced by cancer patients going through chemotherapy.
The DEA approval placed Syndros and its generic formulations in schedule II of the CSA, which is reserved for drugs that have “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
While some Schedule II drugs can be used for medical purposes, like Vicodin, oxycodone, Adderall, and many prescription painkillers, Schedule I drugs are all federally illegal. Non-synthetic marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which is reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
In 2011, Insys wrote a letter to the DEA, urging them to maintain the Schedule I status for non-synthetic marijuana, citing “a longstanding policy of the United States to disfavor domestic cultivation of narcotic raw materials because of concerns about the abuse potential from farming of this material."
Insys also opposed legalization in Arizona, donating $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group opposing Proposition 205, an initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in Arizona.
In a statement, Insys said it opposed Prop 205, "because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children,” according to the Arizona Republic.
Read more here.
California lawmakers want to block police from helping federal drug agents take action against marijuana license holders
Patrick McGreevyContact Reporter
With federal authorities hinting at a possible crackdown on state-licensed marijuana dealers, a group of California lawmakers wants to block local police and sheriff’s departments from assisting such investigations and arrests unless compelled by a court order.
A bill by six Democratic legislators has drawn strenuous objections from local law enforcement officials, who say it improperly ties their hands, preventing them from cooperating with federal drug agents.
“It really is quite offensive,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., who said he objected to lawmakers “wanting to direct law enforcement how they want us to work.”
But proponents say the measure is needed to assure marijuana growers and sellers that applying for state licenses will not make them more vulnerable to arrest and prosecution under federal law, which designates cannabis as an illegal drug.
“Prohibiting our state and local law enforcement agencies from expending resources to assist federal intrusion of California-compliant cannabis activity reinforces … the will of our state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), the lead author of the new bill.
The act of resistance is similar to legislation that would prevent California law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the deportation of people in the country illegally. Senate Bill 54 would address that concern and make California a so-called sanctuary state for immigrants, while Jones-Sawyer’s legislation would similarly make the state a sanctuary for the marijuana industry.
The immigration and marijuana issues have been given new focus by the administration of President Trump, who state officials fear is breaking from the policy of former President Obama, who took a more hands-off approach to both issues.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has indicated in public comments that he thinks marijuana is a danger to society. Last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused a stir when he said, “I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement” of laws against the sale and use of recreational marijuana.
Read more here.
Senators Urge Sessions to Keep Trump's Promise of Marijuana Federalism3/3/2017
Yesterday 11 senators sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions a letter expressing concern about recent statements suggesting he plans to enforce the federal ban on marijuana against state-licensed businesses that serve recreational cannabis consumers. The senators, all of whom represent states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, urged Sessions to stick with the Obama administration's policy of leaving those businesses alone as long as their activities do not implicate the federal "enforcement priorities" listed in a 2013 memo from James Cole, then the deputy attorney general.
"On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump stated that despite his personal views regarding marijuana use, legalization should be left to the states," note Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and nine of their colleagues. "It is essential that states that have implemented any type of practical, effective marijuana policy receive immediate assurance from the DOJ that it will respect the ability of states to enforce thoughtful, sensible drug policies in ways that do not threaten the public's health and safety....We believe that the Cole Memorandum provides a strong framework for effectively utilizing the DOJ's resources and balancing the law enforcement roles of the federal government and the states."
Two Republican senators, meanwhile, say Sessions gave them the impression that he would not try to shut down the cannabis industry in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, or the four states where voters approved legalization last November. "He told me he would have some respect for states' rights on these things," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) toldPolitico, "so I'll be very unhappy if the federal government decides to go into Colorado and Washington and all of these places." Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he did not get the sense from administration officials that Sessions plans a big shift in policy. "Nothing at this point has changed," Gardner told Politico. On Meet the Press last Sunday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Sessions, prior to his confirmation, told Gardner marijuana enforcement "wasn't worth rising to the top and becoming a priority." According to a Justice Department spokesman contacted by Politico, "the department's current policy is reflected in the 2013 Cole memo."
These assurance are not exactly rock solid, especially since the Cole memo leaves a lot of leeway to crack down on state-legal marijuana suppliers, depending on how the federal enforcement priorities are interpreted. Yet both Politico and the New York Post make it seem as if opponents of marijuana prohibition overreacted to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's prediction of "greater enforcement" and Sessions' criticism of legalization, which he coupled with a pointed reminder that "it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."
Read more here.
Virgil Grant, a longtime cannabis-industry player and co-founder of the Southern California Coalition (SCC), gets right to the point when I ask him about Proposition M.
“This is the most progressive and influential ordinance that I’ve ever been involved with in the history of this industry,” he says.
With Los Angeles residents set to vote March 7, Prop. M reflects the efforts of the SCC to finally bring comprehensive, sensible cannabis regulations to a city widely regarded as the No. 1 marijuana distribution market in the world. Should it prove successful, the measure may also serve as a blueprint for other cities and California — as well as other states.
“[Prop.] M is definitely going to be the model of what everyone will definitely want to take and plug into their localities, as well as their states,” Grant says. “It will lead the charge for how other cities, states, and counties will respond by taking that model and using it for themselves.”
Grant, who has been a part of the scene since California passed Prop. 215 in 1996, has seen the industry’s tumultuous history and says it’s time for the chaos to end.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” he says. “I’ve been through the Bush years, through federal intervention, DEA raids, and landlord threat letters — the whole nine. I was indicted by the federal government and served six years in federal prison for owning and operating a legitimate medical marijuana facility.
“When I came home, I saw that the industry was not progressing forward in the right way,” he adds. “I saw a lot of outside interests coming into L.A. and trying to dictate how L.A.’s market should run, and I said, ‘Not in our backyard.’ ”
That’s why Grant started the SCC, one of the driving forces behind Prop. M. Comprised of cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, lab testing companies, delivery services, and collective owners, the SCC offers an accurate reflection of the cannabis industry.
“We needed one unified voice instead of 15 different voices chanting 15 different things,” Grant says.
Now that those voices are joined, they are trying to raise awareness for M, a measure that promises to legitimize L.A.’s cannabis industry by creating regulations, establishing a licensing mechanism, and setting reasonable tax structures. In doing so, it will provide a transparent and fair rubric for law enforcement to crack down on so-called illegal operations.
As Adam Spiker, SCC’s executive director, explains, discussions with Grant and pivotal figures like Eric Holdstrom from the Cultivators Alliance and NAACP’s Donnie Anderson, laid the groundwork for Prop. M.
“Time will tell,” Spiker says, “but Prop. M is trying to account for all of the ancillary pieces that need to have their voices heard: the neighborhood councils, the stakeholder groups, certainly the city of L.A. and their elected officials and staff — and, of course, the industry.”
Spiker says it was imperative that the SCC highlight what made this legislation different from ones that came before.
“What’s different this time? I would say MCRSA [Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2016] is different,” he says. “Prop 64 is different. The city council’s opinions of it are different. That’s why the council voted unanimously to put Proposition M on the ballot.”
Another significant factor is the fact that M will finally do away with the 135-dispensary limit on the number of medical dispensaries allowed to have licenses under the auspices of 2013’s Prop. D. A lack of licensing was to blame when the passage of Prop. D immediately deemed over 1,000 local dispensaries illegal.
Read more here.
Not only is it now legal to recreationally use marijuana in some states, incorporating cannabis into weddings has become increasingly common. Before you write it off as odd or potentially tacky — don’t. Herb-al weddings can be extraordinarily chic and sophisticated, and wedding planners have come up with some truly creative ways to incorporate it into a couple’s big day.
Speaking of wedding planners, you really do need to hire someone who knows her way around weed laws and regulations if you want to add this element to your wedding. Fortunately, with the trend becoming more popular (especially in California with the recently passed marijuana law), bridal gurus are educating themselves and making sure they have their ear to the legal pulse.
We spoke to California-based Ivy Gaitatzis, CEO and founder of California-based Voulez Events, who’s currently involved in organizing San Francisco’s Cannabis Wedding Expo. “We have to respect the laws in place and those laws vary from county to county,” she said. “The very first thing couples need to do is consult with someone who’s aware of all the legalities.”
With that advice, we’re excited to share some creative ways you can incorporate cannabis into your wedding day.
1. Adult CornerThe “adult corner” — which can either be completely private or partially tucked away — is the best way to “keep marijuana away from the kids at the wedding, and away from those who don’t really want it in their face,” said Gaitatzis. She says that it doesn’t have to be completely secluded, but it needs to offer at least a semi-private area for those who want to partake. Gaitatzis recommends creating a clever, weed-themed sign to indicate where the “adult only” room or outdoors area is located. In this space, the bride and groom can offer everything from edibles to vaporizer pens, or simply make it an area for guests to BYOW.
2. Weed-Infused FavorsThe most popular types of weed-infused flavors are either edibles or spa products. For the former, don’t limit yourself to the traditional brownie, as there are many alternatives! Gaitatzis’ said that one of the most creative things she’s seen were microdosed garlic-rosemary roasted almonds and cashews. Other options include truffles, cookies and donuts. For spa-related products, Gaitatzis has seen marijuana-infused bath bombs, lip balms and hand creams. She recommends providing an assortment at a table letting guests choose their favorite.
3. Hemp Paper ProductsHemp has a really organic, earthy feel to it, so even if you’re not into a full-blown weed wedding, you may like the idea of incorporating this into your big day. Gaitatzis says to consider hemp invitations, dinner menus, wedding programs or even guest books!
4. Wine and Cannabis PairingsThis is a super creative option, and one that would require additional experts and staff. However, wine and cannabis pairings are super cool, and will offer your guests an experience they’ll talk about for a long time. It involves “bringing the cannabis smoke extract to sub-zero temperatures,” which is then dispensed into a glass of wine,” explained Gaitatzis. “It enhances the pairing experience since you have to use your nose and mouth at the same time.”
Read more here.
A cannabis industry research and lobbying consultant is using Obama administration Department of Labor research to claim that legally supplying medical and recreational pot will lead American job growth, with a gain of 300,000 jobs over the next three years.Washington DC-based New Frontier Data (NFD) raised an undisclosed amount of seed venture capital on October 22, 2015 as “an independent, data analytics company that provides real-time data solutions to trailblazers in the cannabis industry.”
Over the last 16 months, the company has produced at least 15 cannabis industry reports that analyze marijuana regulation and promote how the exploding American cannabis industry will lead America in job growth and solve public sector tax shortfalls.
According to their latest study, sponsored by M Jardin Premium Cannabis and titled “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets – 4th Edition,” New Frontier Data predicts that legal pot sales will grow at a 31 percent compounded rate, from $4.8 billion in 2014 to 22.6 billion in 2020.
The report’s authors claim the legal pot industry arose to provide medical marijuana after the U.S. federal government criminalized marijuana as the “Assassin of Youth.” But NFD sees the industry’s biggest growth coming from legalized adult recreational marijuana use in states like New York, Illinois and Maryland.
Beginning with Colorado offering the first adult recreational legalization of pot in 2014, NFD projects that legal recreation sales will account for 53 percent, or $12.1 billion, of legal pot sales by 2020.
To highlight the comparative economic development advantages of the 300,000 new legal marijuana jobs NFD predicts over the next three years, it refers to the 2015 Obama Labor Department’s 10-year employment forecast, which predicted American manufacturing jobs would actually shrink by 814,100 — from 12,188,300 in 2014 to 11,374,200 in 2024.
The NFD report is especially high on “cannatourism,” as residents from restricted states travel to legal states to purchase legal pot and presumably satisfy the munchies by consuming mass amounts of sugared and salty treats from all-night convenience stores.
Read more here.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe marijuana should be legalized.
“We have a responsibility to use our best judgment … and my view is we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana,” he said at the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General.
“I’m dubious about marijuana. I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana sold at every corner grocery store.”
Sessions said he saw an article in The Washington Post that said smoking marijuana could be a cure for opiate abuse. He called that argument a “desperate attempt” to defend marijuana and its benefits. “Maybe science will prove me wrong,” he said.
The nation’s top lawman instead called for local law enforcement to be tougher on drugs. He said President Trump has directed him to lead an effort against international drug cartels.
“They are growing in strength ,” he said. “We got so much of it coming right across the Texas border and all across the Mexican border. We can do better. We can do better attacking the distribution networks and we have to start with state and local cases.”
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it has created a task force to reduce crime and improve public safety. Its members will include the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the director of the FBI and the director of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Read more here.
Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.