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April 6, 2015
CBD cannabis oil bills become law in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, a similar bill is moving in Texas, Hawaii moves closer to allowing dispensaries, and more.
Last Thursday, the House narrowly defeated medical marijuana access for vets. An amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to allow the Veterans Administration help veterans gain access to medical marijuana was defeated Thursday by a vote of 213-210. The amendment was to the spending bill to the Veterans Administration.
Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a medical marijuana organ transplant bill. The Assembly approved Assembly Bill 258, filed by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill bars anyone in the organ transplant process from using a patient's use of medical marijuana to deny them a transplant, unless that use is clinically significant to the transplant process. The bill now heads to the state Senate.
On Monday, Clearlake officials said petitioners have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the "zero tolerance" cultivation ordinance passed by the city council in February. That means the previous ordinance, which allowed for up to six plants, remains in effect. Now, the council will have to decide what to do.
Also on Monday, Huntington Beach strengthened its ban on dispensaries. The city council voted to clarify and toughen the ban, and to do so without the usual 30-day grace period. The vote was 4-3.
Also on Monday, Vallejo filed lawsuits against two dispensary ballot initiatives and is asking the courts to declare them invalid. It is also seeking a court order saying that it is not required to produce a ballot title and summary for the initiatives. The lawsuit claims the initiatives are "facially invalid on both constitutional and statutory grounds."
On Tuesday, the Eureka city council voted to approve two dispensaries within the city. The two dispensaries would be allowed to acquire the product elsewhere. An earlier version of the ordinance would have allowed four dispensaries that grow their own product.
Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed into law House Bill 1, the "Hailey's Hope Act." The law will allow qualifying patients to use CBD cannabis oils containing less than 5% THC. Click on the link to see the list of qualifying conditions.
Over the weekend, a dispensary bill came back from the dead. Negotiations over the dispensary bill, House Bill 321, collapsed last Friday, but after drama over the weekend, a Senate and House conference committee was set to reconsider the bill Monday. Sixteen of 25 senators had asked for reconsideration after conference committee chair Sen. Josh Green refused to agree to a final version of the bill. Senate President Donna Mercado then threw him off the committee, and Kim and House Speaker Joseph Souki sent out a letter late Friday saying the bill would be reconsidered today. Click on the link for all the juicy details.
On Tuesday, the dispensary bill won a final committee vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.
On Monday, an advisory board voted against adding anxiety and diabetes. The board has rejected adding anxiety and diabetes to the list of qualifying conditions and diseases, but is still considering whether to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
On Tuesday, the board expanded the list of qualifying illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.
Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a Senate committee vote. Only a year after overwhelmingly rejecting a similar bill, the Senate Health Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 143, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R-Parks). The bill is set for a Senate floor vote this week. The bill does not allow for smoked marijuana; only marijuana processed into oils.
On Monday, the Senate passed the medical marijuana bill. The Senate approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.
On Monday, a CBD cannabis oil expansion bill won a committee vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.
Last Thursday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) today signed into law House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman's Law. It allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil by children suffering from epileptic seizures and sets up a study program.
On Monday, the state ACLU said it would file a lawsuit over employment rights. The ACLU of Rhode Island says it plans to file a complaint against an employer who refuses to hire medical marijuana patients, even though it is legal in the state. Lawsuits challenging the firing of medical marijuana users have been turned away in California and Michigan.
On Monday, the governor signed the CBD cannabis oil bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.
On Monday, CBD cannabis oil bills moved in both chambers. Bills that would allow people suffering from epilepsy to use CBD cannabis oil won committee votes in both chambers Monday. Senate Bill 339 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on an 8-1 vote, while its companion measure, House Bill 892, was approved by the House Public Health Committee, also on an 8-1 vote. A Senate floor vote come could next week.
April 6, 2015
If CBD oil becomes law Monday, it could have far-reaching effects
April 12th, 2015 2:00 pm by NICK SHEPHERD
If CBD oil becomes law Monday, it could have far-reaching effects
MGN Online graphic
Legalizing cannabis oil for use as an alternative medicine is coming up for a full vote in the Tennessee legislature on Monday after sailing through every committee.
If the bill passes, it would have far reaching effects throughout the state. It would affect law enforcement, health care workers and, maybe most importantly, seizure patients. An amendment was added to the bill during the House Health Committee which added access to people suffering from epilepsy, opening up the number of patients who could potentially have access to the oil.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, would redefine marijuana by removing the requirement that cannabis oil containing cannabidiol and less than nine-tenths of 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol be transferred, dispensed, possessed or administered as part of a clinical research study to be in legal possession.
CBD oil contains less than 1 percent of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana which gets users high.
A potential new patient, who is already using marijuana illegally as a medicine to treat his epilepsy, would like to come out of the shadows.
"I think it should be legal," said Jason, who only wished to be identified by his first name because marijuana use is still illegal in Tennessee. "I think it should be legal for medical purposes."
Jason suffered his first grand mal seizure when he was 18 while at a video arcade with his friends. He felt like he was passing out, then hit the floor. After being checked out, he went to see his primary care doctor, who referred him to a neurologist.
The neurologist prescribed Jason three medications: Depakote, which is used to treat seizures and also mood disorders, Clonazepam, which is used to treat seizures along with panic disorder and anxiety, and Flexaril, which is used to treat pain and stiffness caused by muscle spasms.
"It made me like a walking zombie," Jason said.
Some of the medication he was on was eating through his bones, for which he had to take another medicine to keep them strong. That was in the spring of 1995.
He continued on the same medicine for six or seven years until his doctors switched his medication because of the side effects he was experiencing.
As he was weaning down off his medication, because he said you cannot just stop taking it, he began to smoke marijuana. And he began to notice that the marijuana was actually helping him manage his seizures.
Jason, who lives in Johnson City, made it clear he was using marijuana as a medicine and not to get high. He said a few grams of marijuana would last him more than a week. He said some marijuana does not help him, but instead makes him jumpy.
And he does not like smoking it.
"I had smoked before, but I wasn't like a chronic smoker," he said. "I would much rather be able to take like a vitamin with the CBDs or take like a gummy or something like that and have that instead of smoking. I can't stand the smoke, I'm not built for smoking."
He is hopeful the bill passes so he can get the CBD's he says helps control his seizures without fear of arrest or prosecution.
For those who do arrest and prosecute marijuana violations, there are some worries about unintended consequences if this bill gets passed.
"We're anticipating if this law is passed, there would be some diversion for illegal use," said Barry Staubus, Sullivan County District Attorney General. "It would probably require more lab funds because we are seeing more illegal oils."
Staubus said officers around the state would need to be retrained to recognize the oil. One of the reasons law enforcement would need retraining is methamphetamine oil, which officers have been seeing recently.
Staubus is concerned about illegal products being used for legal use and who would grow the marijuana to be converted into CBD oil.
Staubus is not opposed to people using medicine and if there is a medicine out there that will help people, he is all for it. But he still has concerns.
Staubus worries that CBD oil will become like prescription pills where, while the intention is good, it will be used illegally and diverted to other people for illegal purposes.
"Will the law be drafted in such a way for the prevention of abuse and misuse," he said.
In 2014, the Tennessee legislature and Gov. Bill Haslam approved a four-year study of the use of cannabis oil in treating intractable seizures. The state commissioned Tennessee Tech to grow marijuana, process it into oil and dispense it within limitations set by the law.
At least one neurologist in East Tennessee approves CBD oil as an alternative treatment to prescription drugs.
Dr. Anna Kosentka, a Knoxville pediatric neurologist who treats children with infantile spasms, sent a letter to the legislature voicing her full approval for the use of CBD oil. She said in the letter while there are many medications, they are not effective for all patients and implored the representatives to give the matter serious consideration.
In order for medical providers to be able to dispense cannabis oil, they needed to be a part of a medical study, but the law is limited and doesn’t allow any doctor to prescribe oil to any patient across the state.
Faison’s bill hopes to change that, making oil immediately available to patients.
Monday’s vote will decide the fate of the bill and whether seizure patients will be able to receive immediate access to the oil.
Read more: If CBD oil becomes law Monday, it could have far-reaching effects | Kingsport Times-News http://www.timesnews.net/artic.....z3Zc2K9YLN
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April 6, 2015
Parents lobby for 'miracle drug' that comes from pot
By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, San Antonio Express-NewsApril 19, 2015
When the seizure begins, Conrad Tullis' frail body cramps in a painful contraction.
The spasms can last five minutes and strike 15 times a day, leaving the 12-year-old exhausted and unable to interact with the world.
A host of traditional seizure medications haven't helped Conrad - indeed, their debilitating side effects have likely hurt the boy who suffered a severe brain injury when he fell into a pool as a toddler.
Now, his mother, Liz Tullis, hopes that two bills before the Texas Legislature will become law so Conrad and other children with uncontrollable epilepsy might have access to a substance some have deemed a miracle drug - cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil.
A compound extracted from the marijuana plant, the oil is legal in more than a dozen states; a number of others are weighing legislation to make it so. Proponents, including a growing cadre lobbying the Legislature for passage of the Texas Compassionate Use Act, emphasize that CBD oil, which is administered orally, is "noneuphoric" because it's very low in THC, the psychoactive component of pot.
"This is not about getting children high," Tullis said. "It's about relieving them of these devastating seizures, which can be life-threatening."
An estimated 149,000 people in Texas - about one-third of all epilepsy sufferers - find no relief in the spectrum of existing drugs, many of which carry serious, even potentially fatal side effects. But because possession of any amount of CBD oil in Texas is illegal, parents can't administer possibly life-altering medicine to their suffering children.
A number of families in Texas have moved to states where CBD oil already is legal, becoming so-called "medical refugees" so they can provide the treatment to their kids.
Since marijuana is classified by the federal government as a dangerous, addictive drug, on par with heroin, no rigorous studies have been completed to date to show whether CBD oil is safe and effective in treating intractable epilepsy or seizures.
A trickle of early studies have shown mixed results, including one small study out of Colorado that examined parental reports and other data on how well CBD oil and other forms of medical marijuana worked in children and adolescents with intractable epilepsy. One-third experienced a greater than 50 percent reduction in seizures - a significant benefit. But some children weren't helped at all by the drug, and a few experienced adverse effects, such as an increase in seizures.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study - the "gold standard" of research - by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British drug company, is under way at several sites in the U.S. Early trials of its CBD oil Epidiolex have shown that in nearly 40 percent of children, their seizures declined by more than half - again, an optimistic finding.
It's thought that molecules in the oil attach to certain receptors in the brain, quieting an excess of electrical and chemical signals, such as those seen in epilepsy.
"We don't expect CBD oil to cure intractable epilepsy or to help everyone. But for families living with the horror and anxiety of seizure disorder, this is a chance for hope," said Sindi Rosales, CEO of Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas.
The twin bills, both authored by Republicans and supported by lawmakers across the aisle, await hearings in Senate and House subcommittees.
The bills are far more restrictive than those that legalized medical marijuana in 23 states, broad laws that in general green-light the marketing of "whole plant" products to a wide range of patients, such as those with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV and other illnesses.
The Texas bills would allow for the implementation of "compassionate use" of CBD oil by 2018, a move that would effectively bypass FDA drug trials, which can take as long as a decade.
"These are families that have run out of options," said Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, a nurse and lead author of the House bill. "Other states have legalized CBD oil with promising results. We want Texans with intractable epilepsy to have that option."
The bills face opposition from conservative lawmakers, who fear a yes vote might cast them as champions of marijuana, and from the Texas Medical Association, which is opposing the lack of testing available on CBD oil.
Even some parents of children with intractable seizures are against it, arguing their kids need higher levels of THC to make their convulsions stop, a dose ratio the Texas law wouldn't allow. A botanical derived from plants, CBD oil would have to be calibrated from different batches to conform to the strict, low-THC ratio the Texas law would mandate.
It's that very ratio that has made Dean Bortell an opponent of the Texas Compassionate Use Act.
His daughter Alexis, now 9, began having seizures at age 7, convulsing wildly and foaming at the mouth. The various medications doctors gave her actually made her condition worse, he said.
Bortell moved his family from the Dallas area to Colorado, becoming "medical refugees."
Bortell said his daughter's epilepsy now is well-controlled on CBD oil - $150 for a 40-day supply - but one of her doses contains more THC than would be allowed under the proposed Texas law. To get the right ratio, he must add pure THC oil to the CBD oil.
"If I got caught with that in Texas, I'd go to prison," he said. "I've talked to tons of parents here in Colorado, and for many of them, the ratios in the Texas bills wouldn't help their children because they require more THC. For no other medication does the law dictate dosing levels."
'Huge, positive impact'
Fahad Afeef's son Ibrahim, now 10, began having seizures when he was 5 because of Batten disease, a fatal genetic disorder that causes the slow loss of sight and motor skills. His son was put on 14 different medications - most turned him into a "zombie," his dad said - and was hospitalized multiple times.
After hearing about CBD oil, Afeef relocated his family to Colorado Springs in 2013. Now the boy can go months without a seizure and has been weaned off all the other drugs he was taking.
"It's been a huge, positive impact on him," he said. "I feel for all the families in Texas who can't just pack their bags and go."
Tullis, Conrad's mother, said moving her son to Colorado or another state where CBD oil is legal would mean uprooting him from family and his supportive squadron of doctors and therapists, years in the making.
"This is about the potential to help my son without hurting him, and seizures hurt him," she said. "That I would have to leave my home state to do that just doesn't make sense."
April 6, 2015
Medical hemp grow established in Pueblo's Airport Industrial Park
PEDCO voices support for hemp industry
PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. -
A single hemp clone produced about 600 hemp plants inside a grow operation at Pueblo's Airport Industrial Park.
Marc Brannigan, CEO of CBDRx, the first known medical hemp grow in Pueblo, said his company is farming hemp for CBD oil, not industrial use. Later this year, he expects to grow more than 100,000 hemp clones.
"CBD is a cannabinoid similar to THC, but doesn't have the psychoactive effects," Brannigan said.
Brannigan touts the medical benefits of CBD oil, including reducing inflammation and anxiety. Even though hemp contains THC, unlike marijuana, it has less than three-tenths of a percent of it.
"I truly believe that this industry is gonna be much larger, and be much more profitable and create many more jobs than the marijuana industry," Brannigan said.
Brannigan began leasing a building at 310 Keeler Parkway from the Pueblo Development Foundation about two months ago. The Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) also leases space in the building.
The Boulder-based company is looking at expanding either its Pueblo or Boulder facility. If Brannigan chooses to expand in Pueblo, he said he'd be looking to hire between 100 to 200 people.
"Pueblo could be the epicenter for not only the marijuana but the hemp industry, which I truly believe is gonna be federally legal way before marijuana," Brannigan said.
Pueblo County establishes zoning regulations for hemp grows
Pueblo County establishes zoning regulations for hemp
There are 14 hemp grows registered in Pueblo County, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
PEDCO vice president Jeff Shaw told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the city's biggest business recruiter supports the emerging industry.
"Hemp is very intriguing because it's a new industry," Shaw said. "It brings a lot of potential to it for what you can do with hemp from the pharmaceutical side, from the textile side, from some pretty wild ideas on the hemp side, but there's a potential on the economic development side."
Brannigan said he expects to decide within the next month where he'll be expanding. He said some of the positions he'll be looking to fill include lab technicians, farmers and scientists.
April 6, 2015
A DC doctor makes medical marijuana a specialty
WASHINGTON (AP) - Twice a week at the office of Patrick Fasusi, District of Columbia residents line up to ask the pain specialist to approve their use of medical marijuana. For most, the brief wait in the lobby is longer than their consultation.
As marijuana, which became legal for recreational use in the nation’s capital in February, continues to morph from contraband to commonplace, Fasusi’s clinic is a window into the ease with which some residents have been buying officially sanctioned pot for more than two years.
More than 2,700 people have registered for the city’s medical marijuana program, a number that has more than tripled since summer, when the D.C. Council relaxed the rules for participation. And many observers predict that the interest spurred by legalization will lead even more people to jump through the minor hoops required to obtain an official medical marijuana card from the city’s Department of Health.
The first step is a stop at a sympathetic doctor’s office. More than 240 District physicians have applied to participate in the Department of Health’s online system that lets them recommend patients for medical cannabis.
But fewer doctors are busier, or more open about their work with medical marijuana patients, than Fasusi, a pain specialist in Northwest Washington. At a clinic, two patients agreed in March to let a reporter sit in on their consultation as long as they were not identified.
The first, an unemployed man in his mid-30s, complained of pain following knee surgery - in 1995 - and loss of appetite. Fasusi took his temperature and blood pressure and asked him a series of questions. The patient had no other major medical problems, was not on any medication, did not drink and smoked only marijuana. About 18 minutes later, after examining the knee, the doctor filled out the health department’s electronic application for the card and told the man to return for a follow-up in four months.
The second patient, a 20-year-old student from the District’s Takoma neighborhood, said she had been battling insomnia for a year and a half. The sleeplessness was creating anxiety, she said. She had tried over-the-counter melatonin but had not seen a doctor.
“Do you smoke?”
“Actually, I tried marijuana, and that was calming.”
He approved her application, as well.
Afterward, the doctor said the two consultations were fairly typical, although he said most of his patients have seen other doctors about their medical conditions before they come to him.
Fasusi, a strong advocate of medicinal marijuana, wrote more than 1,000 cannabis recommendations in 2014. City regulations call for an audit of any physician who writes more than 250, and the doctor said he was called before a Department of Health panel last year. They asked questions but did not tell him to change his practice, and they noted that the 250 number was not meant as a limit, he said. The department said it could not comment on a specific physician’s prescribing habits.
“They were very, very supportive,” Fasusi said. “They wanted more information about how the program works.”
A dizzying display of pot
Now that it is legal for any District resident to smoke marijuana in the home, some pot professionals say more recreational users will take notice of the availability of medical cannabis. Indeed, Fasusi said he has seen a slight uptick in interest since legalization took effect.
“It’s really not difficult to register and get your cannabis card,” said Vanessa West, general manager of the Metropolitan Wellness Center, in remarks to a downtown marijuana expo in February. “The Department of Health has made it, in my mind, rather easy.”
For those who obtain a physician’s recommendation, the next stop is a visit to one of the city’s three official medical cannabis dispensaries. Each participant is assigned a dispensary, and there are no better places to observe the dizzying makeover of marijuana than in these shops, where a brisk and lawful trade has been going on for more than a year.
Chris Minar works the front desk of the Takoma Wellness Center, the largest of the three. Minar was a District police officer for 28?years, including eight years running “buy-and-bust” stings against small-time pot dealers. Now, when people show up to buy marijuana, he greets them by name and offers them coffee.
“Tarik, how you doing?” he asked one afternoon not long ago as Tarik Davis, a 33-year-old musician who uses cannabis for back spasms, entered the waiting room. “How’s your mother?”
Minar took a part-time job in security here after retiring from the force. So did Darrell Green, the 6-foot-4 former District police officer selling grams of Blue Dream and Sativa Afghani at the rear counter (debit cards accepted).
The decor at Takoma Wellness is a blend of spa lobby and head shop, and the place proudly reeks with a pungency that was once the mark of locked dorm rooms and dark rock concerts. The rear sales room offers a glimpse of what a retail pot market might look like: well-lighted cases lined with fat green buds. Blue Dream sells for $21 a gram; Merry ‘n’ Berry for $22. A small pre-rolled joint of Blue Kush goes for $13.
“It’s still a little mind-numbing when they walk into a place like this,” said Jeffrey Kahn, a rabbi who served four congregations from Australia to New Jersey before opening Takoma Wellness with his wife, Stephanie, their two sons and a daughter-in-law. “It’s just a total paradigm shift.”
In the first months of medical marijuana, the enterprise was clouded by the suspicion and reticence that has long marked pot’s black-market status. Neighbors were wary. One early participant came in with his hat pulled low over dark glasses, suspecting a sting. When a documentary film crew came by in early 2014, the staff could not find a single participant willing to go on camera.
But the Kahns hired former police officers to reassure neighbors and coached them to make clients feel welcome. (“At first, when they would answer the phone, we’d have to tell them, ‘Not your cop voice,’” Stephanie said.) And slowly, as more than 1,000 District residents have registered with the city’s Department of Health to buy cannabis at Takoma Wellness - out of about 2,600 registered citywide - retail pot has begun to feel more routine to those on both sides of the transaction.
For clients, a ‘blessing’
During a visit to Takoma Wellness in March, customers came and went - and more than a dozen were willing to give their names and talk openly about their marijuana use.
“Just being on the legal side of things makes for huge peace of mind,” said Spencer Thompson, 26, a salesman at an H&M; store in Friendship Heights. He had been smoking marijuana for years and found that it greatly eased his nearly crippling social anxiety. When he got his first job with medical coverage, he asked his doctor about the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. She recommended medical cannabis instead. “She said if the pot was working, it was probably better.”
The customers filing in and out of the dispensary represented a cross-section of the District. Some were young and fit and practiced pot smokers. Others said they had never tried the drug, or had not done so for years, before a health concern led them to sign up. Their complaints ranged from phantom pain from an amputation to cluster migraines to muscle spasms from a years-ago motorcycle accident.
Breast cancer survivor Anna Hall, 39, said a few drops of sativa oil under her tongue is the only thing that has eased the nerve pain she feels from Tamoxifin, a cancer drug she will be taking for another nine years.
Jeremy Douglas, 39, a former deep-sea diver for the Navy, said the herb helped him kick the opioid painkillers he had been popping since he was blown out of a Humvee in an explosion in Bahrain in 2004.
Sydney Buffalow said two small hits of marijuana a day - sometimes inhaled from a steam vaporizer, sometimes in oil-infused tea - ease the pain of endometriosis. “I was so glad to tell my dealer I would no longer be coming to see him,” she said. “This place is a blessing.”
Insurance companies will not cover pot, the Kahns said, making it an out-of pocket expense. But low-income customers get a city-mandated 20?percent discount. The health department charges $100 for the marijuana card, or $25 for the poor.
The dispensary is housed in a small suite of freshly redecorated offices in a tiny shopping center a few blocks from the Takoma Metro station. The waiting room is a dentist-lobby haven of pastel walls, subtle art and trim leather chairs. The bell on the always-locked front door rings every few minutes and, like a speakeasy, Minar asks each customer for their official District of Columbia Department of Health marijuana card and a second photo ID before he lets him or her in.
Traffic is brisk, thanks to an ongoing shortage of the cannabis supplied by the District’s three official growers. Dispensaries often limit how much each participant can buy to a gram or so per visit, so some customers come back every few days.
If anything deters recreational users from trying to access the medical marijuana network, it may be this shortage, and the resulting jump in dispensary prices. One ounce of a strain called BerryO costs $552 at Takoma Wellness. A similar quantity of premium pot is available on the black market for as low as $350, according to several local dealers interviewed recently who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid legal scrutiny.
In the center’s dispensary room, where cardholders are called by name, Green works the register and talks with clients about the THC and CBD levels of the various strains. Packets of rolling papers fill one shelf, and glass pipes, another. But most of the space is devoted to smoke-free methods of imbibing: Volcano Vaporizers; Magical Butter machines that distill it to oil; a lone box of Duncan Hines brownie mix.
“We advise people that anything is healthier than smoking,” Stephanie said.
The Kahns view their bustling enterprise as part business and part mission. Stephanie’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1960s. He tried a range of treatments, including snake venom, but found the most relief from marijuana. A huge honeymoon portrait of her smiling parents hangs in the dispensary lobby, and Stephanie tells the story to almost every new client.
“This is very personal for us,” she said.
Aaron C. Davis and John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com.....z3Zc3kvIvW
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April 6, 2015
Carly's Law update: Parents 'anxious' for CBD oil study at UAB to start; school awaiting federal OK
The warm and fuzzies have faded, the excitement tempered by a growing anxiousness.
For the parents in Alabama whose epileptic children struggle daily through seizures, April 1, 2014 - the day Gov. Robert Bentley signed Carly's Law into, well, law - consumed them with joy.
More than five months later, the waiting for medicinal CBD oil made legal by Carly's Law goes on.
It was supposed to be this way. Neurological researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham were tasked in the law with researching, developing and dispensing the oil that's a marijuana derivative. They said it would take about six months and UAB officials say that everything remains on schedule.
But put yourself in the shoes of the parents. It's your child who is suffering. You're waiting for the medicine. The wait gets longer and longer.
Dustin Chandler, Carly's father, maintains close contact with UAB officials and provides updates via Facebook on what he hears as the school navigates the federal bureaucracy for permission to deal with a Schedule 1 drug.
"Whenever I meet with them, I tell them I talk with parents on a daily basis and their children or their adult child is just suffering," said Chandler, a police officer in Pelham. "Will UAB hurry up? Please let them know we're out here suffering. They know that. They deal with patients on a daily basis as well. They are doing everything they have to but everything they are doing, they're doing as fast as they can.
Will UAB hurry up? Please let them know we're out here suffering.
"It seems like forever and I know that all too well. My daughter suffers on a daily basis. I'd like to start this thing tomorrow. But there is a process we have to go through and that's the way we have to go about doing it."
Two days after Bentley certifying Carly's Law, UAB officials held a press conference to discuss their role. Carly's Law dictates that UAB "will establish a research and development study" on CBD oil and that the school would have "exclusive authorization" for the prescription and use of CBD oil.
In fact, adding UAB's role in the law was considered a key factor in getting the law passed by legislators.
Since that press conference, UAB officials have said little because, according to spokesman Bob Shepard, there isn't much to say at this point.
"We're still hoping to be able to start rolling in October, but I can't give you a definite date," Shepard said in a Sept. 4 email to AL.com. "We're closer, but that's about it."
Shepard said UAB must get clearance from federal entities such as the Food & Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Shepard said other steps include negotiating with a vendor who will supply the CBD oil.
There are also internal steps UAB must clear: The school's Institutional Review Board. Shepard said it's made up of university leadership, scientists and community members who oversee human studies to protect the welfare and rights of study subjects.
The program manager, established after the law was passed, "has been taking information from potential parents/study subjects so that we can reach out to those people as soon as we are up and running," Shepard said in a Sept. 10 email to AL.com.
For Chandler, he applauds that the wheels of progress are churning at UAB.
"They have got some federal regulations that we know about that they've got to get over those hurdles but they are working as diligently and every angle we can to make everything happen this fall," he said. "It is one of these things where it looks like UAB is dragging feet but they truly are not.
"I've got full confidence in meeting with them."
Gena Dalton of Madison is another parent reminding herself to be patient while wishing she could fast-forward the process. She's a chemist in Huntsville and, as a scientist, said she understands the process can't be completed overnight.
Still, her 2-year-old daughter Charlotte - who suffers from Dravet Syndrome - has seizures every day that have become a routine part of her life as much as eating meals and playing with toys.
"I'm hopeful, I'm anxious," said Dalton, whose activism in lobbying for Carly's Law has led her to be a board member for the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama. "I really wish things would have happened months ago but again, wearing a different hat, I understand why it's going to take a while. There's still saying it's going to be fall and fall is just right around the corner.
"I'm really anxious and looking forward to hearing the latest news. I'm trying to have patience and hopefully things will be going in the right direction pretty quick."
The unknown for the parents is how effective CBD oil will be in reducing, if not eliminating, the seizures. The evidence of success is largely anecdotal - perhaps the best-known case is Charlotte Figi of Colorado. The CBD oil has been so effective in treating her seizures that she's become a sort of national face of the movement like Carly Chandler in Alabama.
The Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 was introduced in Congress in July by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania.
"I hear from families every day - either Facebook or email," Chandler said. "I understand those frustrations. Man, when you watch your 3-year-old daughter have a massive seizure and there's just nothing you can do.
"You hope and pray this medicine is going to help them. There's no guarantee. But just to be able to try it, get in the study and have a doctor's care over it is such a promising thing."
April 6, 2015
Growing the Machine
The local marijuana industry has united. Now comes the hard part.
Depending who you ask, it was the pitch of a snake oil salesman or Humboldt County marijuana farmers' version of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. Whatever your bent, it was an example of classic political oration with a heavy economic focus, an impassioned personal plea, with references to a way of life threatened by outside forces, and a dearth of specifics as to what's being proposed.
California Cannabis Voice of Humboldt co-founder Luke Bruner, clad in a white dress shirt and a navy sports coat, was addressing the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors at a meeting in February. The presentation came at the request of Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, as CCVH was busily working on an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation on large parcels throughout the county.
For many in Humboldt, this was their first introduction to Bruner and CCVH, though the nonprofit social welfare organization had already been working on the land use ordinance for more than six months, both behind closed doors and in a series of stakeholder meetings held throughout the county.
That afternoon in February, Bruner talked about marijuana's role in Humboldt, charging that the industry accounts for at least $2 billion of the county's $5 billion economy. He laid out a vision for a luxury boutique product that — in a post-marijuana legalization economy — could play a vital role in the county's tourism industry, much like wine in Napa and Sonoma counties. He explained that national trends in the movement toward marijuana legalization paint a foreboding picture, saying that regulatory frameworks in place elsewhere have put caps on the number of cultivation licenses issued, effectively squeezing out small farmers and leaving the legal marijuana industry in the hands of large-scale cultivators.
Humboldt, he said, has the opportunity to show the nation a better way, noting that America was "built on the back of small farms." Using the type of imagery and loaded language that are the cornerstones of political campaigns, Bruner talked about a recent drive he'd taken to Los Angeles.
"It was biblical," he said. "I beheld a withering valley, rivers with no fish, land that was barren and dead of micro-life, county after county that engaged in absolute agricultural destruction because agriculture had been allowed to proceed in an unregulated fashion. We hope to see a 21st century agricultural model emerge, today and going forward, where environmental protection and sustainability is united with small farms and economic success."
Bruner wrapped up with a plea, underscoring his point that this conversation is about more than marijuana, the environment, a struggling economy and potential revenue streams.
"Help the small farmer understand he doesn't have anything to be ashamed of, she doesn't have anything she shouldn't be proud of," he told the supervisors. "There's a social taboo that says that individual doesn't get to participate in our society, that says they're somehow less than equal, that says you don't get to go to a school board meeting and get your view heard, that your kids have to lie when they talk to their friends about what their parents do. That needs to go away. It's fundamentally, morally wrong, I believe, that that level of discrimination exists in our county.
"We are equals in society and we ask to be treated as such."
With that, the standing room-only Supervisors Chambers, packed with 100 or so CCVH supporters, broke out in tentative applause that lasted about 10 seconds. Then someone let out a "whoop" of approval, and the crowd rose to its feet, cheering and clapping for another 20.
The board appeared equally moved. Chair Estelle Fennell told the crowd that applause wasn't generally permitted, but she allowed it in this instance because Bruner's presentation was a "little bit of history." First District Supervisor Rex Bohn quipped to Bruner: "I think in a previous life you and I ran across each other: I think you were a preacher and I was in need of saving." Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace thanked Bruner, saying "it's time for us to have a normal, rational, proud relationship with this industry." Sundberg went so far as to ask Bruner which two supervisors he'd like to see serve on a medical marijuana subcommittee.
For anyone who's watched the marijuana conversation play out the chambers of Humboldt's elected bodies, this represented a clear and abrupt change in tone.
It also represented calculated work on the part of CCVH, which, since its formation about 10 months ago, has seemingly united Humboldt's marijuana growing community behind a single organization that now stands as the loudest — and perhaps most important — voice in a conversation that has the potential to shape the county's environment and economy for decades to come. CCVH is pushing its proposal forward as an ordinance initiative, which means if it gets enough valid signatures from registered voters — 7,430 — in support of the ordinance, they can force the board of supervisors to either pass it directly as written or call a special election to let voters decide its fate.
It's a political power play, and one that's facing considerable skepticism and backlash, most notably from the environmental community. Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen said it's "beyond a dereliction to hand this process to a self-interested group." That's a refrain that comes up frequently when talking to critics of CCVH's proposal, with folks pointing to Wall Street, oil companies and big timber as examples of what happens when an industry is allowed to write its own rules. And, they charge, there's nothing in the current working draft of CCVH's ordinance to address the environmental crisis going on in overburdened watersheds throughout the county.
While the outcome of this process remains up in the air with a big political fight looming on the horizon, CCVH has seized control of the conversation. A local chapter of a state-wide organization, it's clear CCVH's foothold in Humboldt has a lot to do with two men.
California Cannabis Voice Humboldt's Feb. 24 presentation to the Board of Supervisors.
It was one of those April days in which Eureka's skies loom gray and overcast while Garberville's are a cloudless blue. Kevin Jodrey stood in a cultivation room in Wonderland Nursery, an organic medical marijuana dispensary just outside of the Southern Humboldt town, with a few dozen plants scattered around in various stages of growth.
"That's the plant that saved Humboldt," Jodrey said, gesturing toward a tray of plants in the corner, the New England accent of the 48-year-old's Rhode Island youth still heavy on his tongue. "That's the Mendo Purp."
Jodrey said that in the early 1990s, Humboldt's marijuana industry was struggling. Canada — British Columbia particularly — was "grinding out" high quality weed that was flowing across a porous border and flooding markets throughout the West Coast. "Then purp comes onto the scene," Jodrey said, referring to the strain known for the purple hue of its buds. The color, Jodrey said, gave the marijuana instant recognition everywhere it went — from living rooms to street corners — and it became the it strain, moving almost as quickly as it could be grown under names like "Urkle," "Barney" and, simply, "Purp."
"Humboldt County transformed itself and re-energized on this plant," Jodrey said, adding that after the 2001 terror attacks caused national borders to tighten considerably, Humboldt was atop the marijuana world.
When it comes to the genetics of marijuana, Jodrey's an expert — an internationally recognized expert — and he exudes an unmistakable joy when talking about the plant that's been a staple in his life for some 35 years. Jodrey also has seemingly had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Sitting on a bucket in a work area of Wonderland that day, Jodrey explained it as dual pendulums passing each other, swinging in opposite directions. One pendulum represents skill, the other fate.
For Jodrey, the skill pendulum swings way back to his early teenage years, when he was a high school student in Rhode Island growing marijuana on property owned by his family. According to a profile in the online magazine The Kernel, Jodrey's first gig in the marijuana industry was helping a neighbor break up pounds of marijuana offloaded from fishing boats from Columbia and Panama, preparing them for distribution. In 1983, Jodrey's small grow operation got busted by the police and he spent some time in a juvenile facility and a reform school. Immediately after getting out of high school in 1985, Jodrey joined the U.S. Coast Guard and — for the most part — left marijuana behind for four years as he worked as a salvage diver and on drug interdiction missions in the Pacific. Describing himself as "mission-oriented," Jodrey said life in the Coast Guard suited him, but he didn't have any trouble leaving it behind.
"The day I got out of the Coast Guard, I went and bought indoor grow lights," Jodrey said. That was 1989 and he was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was working as a contractor, but put together an indoor grow operation — both to supplement his income and because he simply loved the act of growing.
Jodrey said he kept growing, even as his contracting business exploded, with his crew specializing in restoring and repairing lighthouses, a lucrative specialty. The work kept Jodrey on the move and twice brought him to the North Coast — once to work on the Cape Mendocino lighthouse and again to repair one on the Samoa Peninsula. He fell in love with the area and, in 1993, moved to Humboldt County. The plan, he said, was to run a construction outfit. But Jodrey said he quickly saw that, as the son of a scientist mother and a father who was a contractor and a master landscaper, he was poised to become a major player in Humboldt's underground industry.
"It was just one day I realized I have the perfect skill set to be a dope grower," he said, adding that he had both the construction background and the cannabis know-how necessary to take an operation from inception to harvest. Jodrey said he worked around the county taking on large-scale jobs, converting clumsy diesel-generator powered grows into "efficient indoor jobs," some necessitating a couple hundred lights. Jodrey got an agriculture business degree from College of the Redwoods and planned on going on to get a bachelors from Humboldt State University, but in the late 1990s, with California's Proposition 215 in full swing, the local marijuana industry exploded.
Jodrey said he had more work than he could do, noting that he consulted on so many grow operations in Sunny Brae he had to keep a map to track which homes he'd worked on. And Jodrey said he kept learning, treating every job as both a business card — something that would have his name and reputation attached to it — and a learning platform in which he could study different strains and different setups. "It was total saturation, total immersion," he said, adding that he became known for the consultant that delivered guaranteed production. "My reputation is golden. I'm the guy who brings in the fucking loot. It's just: be straight, be on point, satisfy the requirements. That's the mission."
Despite the indoor boom, Jodrey also kept growing outdoors, mostly just on small personal projects that allowed him to try different things and hone his craft. So why, as the indoor market was flourishing, did Jodrey think outdoor was worth the time? "There's no other crop growing indoors, so why would cannabis stay inside once you erase the stigma and the illegality associated with it?" he answered. "I always knew it was going to go back outside, which is why I needed the organic ag background."
Around 2008, one of Arcata's medical marijuana dispensaries, the Humboldt Patient Resource Center, was having some problems with its production line and Executive Director Mariellen Jurkovich said she knew just the man to call. The only problem was Jodrey said he wasn't interested. Repeatedly. Finally, the two ran into each other at a community event and Jurkovich convinced Jodrey to sign on as her cultivation director.
Jodrey spent about four years in the role, totally overhauling the dispensary's grow operation. He said it taught him a lot about the dispensary world and the medical side of the cannabis industry. He said he was also confronted by a parade of people coming into the shop to ask him for pointers and advice on their grows, so Jodrey started a volunteer program that essentially let folks come in and pick his brain, as long as they helped out and kept busy while doing so.
But by late 2012, Jodrey felt ready for a change and started looking at setting up his own shop, ultimately purchasing Garberville Grass. Wonderland Nursery opened in 2013 with a unique business model. With Southern Humboldt awash in marijuana bud, there's little demand for a traditional dispensary selling buds, edibles and concentrates ready for consumption. Plus, Jodrey said he left the Humboldt Patient Resource Center tired of that model, saying it made him feel a bit like a drug dealer taking advantage of the sick. He figured he'd rather just deal with the plants. Wonderland specializes in selling clones — ready-to-grow clippings of female marijuana plants that are essentially genetically identical to their mother plant — and offers customers nine strains to choose from.
Almost any large-scale cultivation operation starts with clones, and lots of them. The manicured marijuana buds patients buy in dispensaries and recreational users seek out are the flowers from unfertilized female plants. Because fertilization leads to seeds, which decrease potency and tarnish the taste, growers have to be fastidious about making sure their gardens are entirely female, which is part of what makes clones so popular. And because clones are essentially just continuations of their mother plants, they offer remarkable reliability when bought from a trusted source.
This is a huge component of what Wonderland offers, Jodrey said, a trusted name and reputation standing behind its product. "Trust is delicate and we try not to screw it up," Jodrey said. Another thing Wonderland offers its customers is access to Jodrey's knowledge base. That April day, Jodrey was frequently pulled from conversation to answer questions. There was a caller asking what to do about a spit bug infestation. Another wanted advice on treating an esophageal condition. A woman came into the shop with a bud from her late-husband's last harvest, wanting help identifying the strain so she could plant it again. Jodrey said he's also always willing to consult about which strain is best suited to the varied and unique microclimates of Humboldt County, helping farmers lessen the need for heavy irrigation, fertilizing and other chemical-heavy interventions.
Jodrey's model seems successful. He noted Wonderland has essentially doubled its business each summer since it opened. Currently, all the nursery's inventory is spoken for, with Jodrey's crew just working to keep up with back orders. "Our growth rate is wicked," he said.
While selling clones is the nursery's financial bread and butter, it has some CBD strains — those high in cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound believed to have powerful and far-reaching medical effects — of which it offers free clones to patients. "This is it in real life," Jodrey said, referring to Wonderland as cannabis business as it can and should be, noting that he recently toured a group of California lawmakers and regulators through the dispensary.
As Jodrey was setting up his shop, the pendulum of fate began swinging back in his direction. Last summer, down in San Francisco, an attorney and political organizer by the name of Matt Kumin, who had long been active in medical marijuana policy, felt the time was finally right to push for change. The U.S. Department of Justice had recently issued a memo essentially saying it would refrain from trampling all over states' medical marijuana regulations, so Kumin started a political action committee, California Cannabis Voice, with the aim of getting some medical marijuana regulations implemented in California. Kumin teamed up with Terrance Alan, a prominent San Francisco community organizer best known for his work on an ordinance that was a precursor to Proposition 215 and helping San Francisco form its now all-powerful entertainment commission. The two quickly started looking to the Emerald Triangle, hoping to form some local chapters and get buy-in from the heart of California's industry.
Because of Jodrey's personal reputation and that of Wonderland — an all-organic, fully licensed dispensary paying payroll taxes for its 11 employees — Kumin and Alan made the call. Jodrey said he's generally distrustful of politicians, but knew Kumin and Alan both had a history of civil rights work, so he asked Alan to come up to Humboldt to talk to him in person.
When the two sat down together, Jodrey said he listened as Alan talked about grass-roots organizing and the need for local buy-in to help effect change at the state level — first regulation then legalization. Jodrey said he told Alan that the effort needed to be more local.
"I said, 'If you want the people of Humboldt to support you, you have to help them put a system in place to allow them to do what they do. You have to have the local ordinance,'" Jodrey recalled.
Kevin Jodrey talks propagation at a 707 Cannabis College event.
Of all the people to become the face of the Humboldt County marijuana industry, Luke Bruner was an unlikely candidate. A baby-faced 30-year-old conservative Catholic from the Chicago area, Bruner's a recent Humboldt transplant and a relative newcomer to the industry.
The son of a corporate attorney mother and a retired speech-writer father, Bruner graduated with a theology degree from Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana. After a stint teaching theology to high schoolers in Montana, Bruner returned to Indiana, where he got his first community organizing experience with the 40 Days for Life campaign, which bills itself as the "largest internationally coordinated pro-life movement in history, helping local communities end the injustice of abortion."
An injury — he slipped on some ice, hit his head and hurt his leg — landed Bruner back living with his parents and searching for change. He said he was essentially in a rut when he opened an edition of National Geographic to find a centerfold of Humboldt State University scientist Steve Sillett and his crew 14 stories up a 30-story redwood. The next year — 2010 — he arrived in Arcata, site unseen, enrolled in HSU's masters in business administration program. Before leaving Illinois, Bruner said he consulted a counselor, who suggested he try medical marijuana in California. Bruner said he had liked smoking pot in high school, so decided to follow the advice.
Shortly after his arrival, HSU's business program hit the skids, as it lacked accreditation, and the university suspended new enrollments. Bruner left school, but had fallen in love with Arcata and Humboldt. Bruner wandered into the Humboldt Patient Resource Center one day and noticed it had a lending library behind the counter. He asked to borrow a book on cultivation, read it that night and returned the next day to take out another. In short order, he met Jodrey and the two clicked.
Bruner said he spent a couple of years finding his way. He tried to take online business classes but gave it up, saying he "needed the human element." He said he did some work on the periphery of the marijuana industry — trimming jobs and some mediation work — then, when Jodrey was looking to start up Wonderland, he hired Bruner to help get the place permitted, which turned into a full-time gig as business manager.
"He's a brilliant, gifted kid," Jodrey said of Bruner.
Sitting in his Wonderland office — which consists of a folding table with a couple of laptops on it and a shelving unit filled with binders — Bruner said he's got a touch of Asperger syndrome. He said he struggles with social anxiety (he declined to have his picture taken for this story, saying he's already feeling overexposed) and has trouble reading the mood in a room, but he can devour and retain complex information. He's also politically minded, quoting freely from Rules for Radicals, famed community organizer Saul Alinsky's guide for organizing low-income communities to self-empower and effect change.
Matthew Owen, a home mortgage consultant with the local Wells Fargo and husband of Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass, said he got a call out of the blue one day from an attorney friend of his from the Eureka Rotary Club. The friend said he had a client who was looking to become more politically involved and asked Owen to meet with him.
"We sat down and we chatted," Owen recalled of meeting Bruner, adding that he was instantly taken by him. "Luke's one of the most dynamic, energetic people I've met in my whole life."
Owen said that Bruner told him that he and his associates believed statewide marijuana legalization was coming in 2016 and wanted to make sure Humboldt's small farmers were protected, fearing legalization would lead to a takeover by corporate America. A local ordinance, Bruner said, was the only thing that could possibly save Humboldt's way of life. Bruner didn't say much about how he came to meet Owen, but said Owen was nice to him and went out of his way to treat him well. Owen even asked Bruner to tag along on a wine-tasting trip to Sonoma County, wanting Bruner to understand the marketing and branding that drives a luxury boutique industry.
"You don't go drink wine in wine country," Owen said. "You go to Ferrari Carano to drink Ferrari Carano wine out of a Ferrari Carano glass. Most of the wineries, if they're any good, don't sell you wine — they sell you an experience."
Between Ferrari Carano and a wine makers' dinner at Michel-Schlumberger, Bruner said he got to meet a number of industry marketing and hospitality directors and pick their brains about wine clubs, tastings and packaged luxury local products, like wine baskets with dried fruit, cheese and crackers. "These people aren't fucking around," Bruner said. "There's a cultural gap, but we're a luxury product and a boutique industry, just like them."
Sometime after the trip, Bruner asked if he could volunteer to help out on Bass' re-election campaign, which was being managed by Richard Marks, an accomplished former union organizer and sitting harbor commissioner with a reputation as a strong political mind.
Marks said Bruner dove into the campaign. He went door to door, walked precincts, and did some phone banking. Bruner was interested in the process, Marks said, and when the campaign entered its stretch run, Marks let Bruner shadow him for the get-out-the-vote effort. Marks' impression?
"He's a genius," Marks said, adding that Bruner proved able to digest and retain massive amounts of information in a short amount of time and has a mental capacity that impressed him. "You don't meet too many people like Luke Bruner. He's an anomaly. ... I think I'm pretty well versed in political statistics, but me, I need a computer. I need to see trends. He can see that in his head."
Shortly after Bass won re-election, taking 52 percent of the vote to edge out challenger Chris Kerrigan in June, Marks said he got a call from Bruner, asking if he'd be willing to come down to Wonderland to discuss some ideas with a couple guys from the Bay Area.
Those guys were Kumin and Alan, and with Bruner and Marks they discussed a local land use ordinance, timelines and strategy. A short time later, Marks signed on to be California Cannabis Voice Humboldt's consultant and then became executive director of the organization, which now boasts more than 600 members with a 14-person board of directors.
Though new to California politics, Bruner has proven adept. In addition to being a driving force behind CCVH's ordinance efforts, he's also spent a lot of time working with the offices of State Assemblyman Jim Wood and Sen. Mike McGuire, lobbying both on their respective medical marijuana regulation bills that are currently pending in the Legislature. But perhaps the most impressive thing on Brunner's resume is his ascension up the ranks of the notoriously closed and outsider-wary circles of the marijuana industry. In addition to his roles with CCVH and Wonderland, Bruner is also an executive member of the Emerald Grower's Association and is currently running for a seat on the California Industry Association's board of directors.
It's hard to tell how much of it has to do with timing and how much can be credited to Bruner, but whereas previous marijuana regulation efforts in Humboldt have seen growers split into divergent factions, this campaign has been largely marked by unity. When Woods' bill got a recent hearing in front of the state Assembly Agriculture Committee, about 100 marijuana farmers showed up wearing matching green t-shirts with #SameTeam written across the back. During the meeting, one member of the group addressed the committee as the others stood in unison behind him. When he finished his remarks, the group sat down on cue.
Bruner and Jodrey were quick to deflect credit, saying any success CCVH has had is largely due to its dedicated board of directors and a whole lot of neighborhood meetings, with growers gathering around with some beer and some grass, and maybe a pig on the barbecue, to discuss the vision and the ordinance.
"If an organization is personality driven, it's not going to be successful," Bruner said. "It needs to be issue driven and community driven."
Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen's 2012 TedX presentation on outdoor marijuana cultivation's environmental impacts.
In December of 2012, Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen gave a talk at TedX Eureka on the environmental impacts of outdoor marijuana growing. It may be the most succinct summary of Humboldt County's marijuana environmental crisis on record, clocking in at just over 11 minutes long.
In it, Greacen detailed a list of problems — from soil dumping and pesticide use to illegal water diversions and unpermitted grading — that are imperiling Humboldt watersheds and several threatened species. Though brief, Greacen's presentation was nuanced, separating private grow operations and the massive ones carried out on public lands and explaining why a one-size-fits-all enforcement approach has failed and actually exacerbated impacts.
"We are dealing with a species of wicked problem," Greacen said. "Now wicked problems are problems of relationships, they are complex and really resist definition and are very hard to solve because they throw off these unintended consequences, especially if you try to solve them with just one single approach. Far better, the literature says, to bring many diverse viewpoints together to try to anticipate, so you can minimize and mitigate the harms that are inevitable in any policy change in a wicked problem. The key lesson here is we have to take full responsibility for our actions, including inaction."
When CCVH went public with its plans to create a land use ordinance, holding a pair of stakeholder meetings led by a professional facilitator from University of California Berkeley, a number of prominent local names in the environmental community were in attendance. But while people like Northcoast Environmental Center Executive Director Dan Ehresman and Environmental Information Protection Center Director Natalynne DeLapp had a seat at the table, Greacen was conspicuously absent. Asked why he thought he didn't get an invite, Greacen didn't mince words.
"When presented with a steaming heap of bullshit, I'm the most likely guy in the room to say, 'Hey, this is a steaming heap of bullshit,'" he said. "This is a snow job. They had an answer in their pocket and tried to pull together a group of people not so much for collaboration, but for cooptation. There's a fundamental problem in CCVH's approach. They're not trying to solve the same problem we are. They're trying to solve the perception of environmental problems, not the problems themselves."
Ehresman said he had high hopes for CCVH, even through the initial stakeholder meeting. Critical voices weren't given a seat at the table, which made him skeptical, but Ehresman said he was pleased to hear calls for regulation from people within the industry. And, he said, he walked away from that initial meeting believing there was a widespread consensus on lots of issues, including the need for a regulatory framework and the coordination of regulatory agencies, a funded enforcement mechanism, labor protections and chain-of-custody requirements, as well as revenue generated for the county government and watershed restoration. But Ehresman was soon disappointed.
"A lot of the key components identified that came out of a broad consensus are not part of this ordinance," he said. "Based on the first six drafts, it appears they're going in the opposite direction of what we'd like to see. They seem to be opening the door for larger-scale grows on more parcels."
The environmental community's criticisms of the ordinance largely center on three things. First, and probably foremost, the latest draft of the ordinance would make marijuana growing operations with 5,000-square-foot canopies a principally permitted use — a right, as Greacen called it — on all parcels in the county larger than five acres. (A recent study shows the average size of existing grow operations to be about 2,300 square feet.) Second, the ordinance would make marijuana cultivation a compatible use on timber production zone lands — lands that have been set aside for the preservation of timber. Third, the ordinance lacks a component that would generate revenue to ensure compliance and enforcement, much less to go back into the county general fund or pay for environmental mitigation.
Greacen and Ehresman said these are all pretty much nonstarters, and that the county needs to look at a way to crack down on bad actors and mitigate the impacts of existing grow operations before opening the door to more. Greacen said the environmental community would have long ago sued the industry into compliance if it existed with a single fixed address and phone number, instead of thousands of them. The differing views on the best path forward go back to divergent goals, Greacen said, charging that CCVH's primary goal is legitimizing the existing industry, while environmentalists want it cleaned up and regulated.
Back at Wonderland, Jodrey said the ordinance is really about saving his community. In his view, it gives an industry an opportunity to step into the sunlight, showcasing what it does right and fixing what it does wrong. Once that happens, he thinks it will begin to self-correct and the bad actors will be weeded out. What's obvious, he said, is the current system isn't working for the environment or the industry. The ordinance, he said, is about trying to find a better way.
"I have no aspirations to be cannabis king," he said. "We're doing all this because this is where I live. This isn't really that fucking complicated. This is where I live and, in 20 years, I want it to be better than it is now."
Bruner and Marks said they are confident the latest draft of the ordinance — expected out in the coming days — should go a long way to addressing environmental and revenue concerns. CCVH hired former supervisor and coastal commission chair Bonnie Neely's firm, the Sacramento-based Nossaman LLP, to fine tune it. With CCVH operating on a tight timeline, wanting an ordinance approved by November at the latest, the process is going to move quickly.
In short order, CCVH seems to have unified the local marijuana industry behind a single vision. Now comes the hard part, getting the board of supervisors and the citizens of Humboldt to believe that vision is in the best interest of the county as a whole.
April 6, 2015
If Marijuana Is Medicine, Why Can’t We Buy It in Pharmacies?
Medical marijuana is more readily available thanks to a spate of new state laws. But there’s nothing medical about the path most patients take to get it.
The popular explanation for medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up in states from Washington to New York is that marijuana is a wonder drug — treating not just nausea and lack of appetite, but also pain, anxiety, epileptic seizures, and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
The federal government refuses to allow people to use it, proponents say.
The story, however, isn’t quite so simple.
Few doubt that the plant has at least a handful of valid medical uses. But research into those uses isn’t yet up to scientific snuff. Many U.S. studies are based on observations of patients who use marijuana on their own, meaning the dose and balance of active ingredients often aren’t standardized.
If the claims for marijuana are true, then by rights it should be made available for medical use. But there isn’t a single FDA-approved drug in use that is as loosely regulated or as poorly understood as the buds, brownies, and candies for sale at those dispensaries. Legal and logistical barriers to clinical research on marijuana are among the biggest reasons why.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that researchers explained how marijuana’s best known ingredient, THC, works. There are at least 79 other potentially active chemicals in marijuana, many with no research on their effects.
“You have to know what you’re describing in terms of what is the specific plant and what are the dosages. On a medicine bottle, that’s very clear. In medical marijuana studies, those details aren’t there,” said Rosalie Pacula, who co-directs the Drug Policy Research Center at the RAND Corporation think tank.
You have to know what you’re describing in terms of what is the specific plant and what are the dosages. On a medicine bottle, that’s very clear.
Rosalie Pacula, Drug Policy Research Center
To better understand marijuana’s medical uses, research would have to look a lot more like the drug development research pharmaceutical companies do for their drug candidates.
“If it turns out that a certain strain is really, really valuable, we’ll understand that better if it’s done through standard medical process rather than just being done where people can come in [to a dispensary] and pick one,” Pacula said.
Few academics and no American pharmaceutical companies are investigating cannabis-based drugs the same way they once did synthetic opioids.
Why hasn’t interest in medical marijuana led to controlled dosages, written prescriptions, and insurance coverage? After all, aspirin is made from a compound found in willow tree bark, but people don’t buy willow bark and consume it in the way they see fit to treat headaches and fever.
The Research Gauntlet
Rick Doblin’s answer to the question of marijuana medicalization is long — more than two decades long, actually.
Doblin, who holds a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, founded and directs the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). MAPS is a California-based nonprofit whose mission is to develop low-cost prescription medications from psychedelic drugs, including marijuana.
Since 1992, MAPS has been trying to obtain marijuana to use in medical research. MAPS first tried to get a government license to grow its own marijuana to explore whether vaporizers were a safer drug delivery system than marijuana cigarettes.
Marijuana is the only Schedule I drug that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) doesn’t permit to be commercially produced for research. MAPS sued the DEA with a University of Massachusetts, Amherst, professor who sought a license to become a second approved marijuana grower. In 2008, a judge sided with MAPS, recommending that the DEA issue a license. It never did.
The agency says that international treaties bind the government to using only a single source of marijuana.
That left MAPS just one option: to buy marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The University of Mississippi manages an acre-and-a-half plot under its exclusive contract with NIDA to supply marijuana for research.
In 2010, MAPS proposed a study on using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans with NIDA marijuana. The proposal got the green light from the DEA and the FDA. But it was rejected by another federal agency, the U.S. Public Health Service.
The Public Health Service review was set up to help NIDA evaluate medical research proposals as it broadened its focus after the Institute of Medicine argued in 1999 that cannabis deserved more study. Research on other, arguably harder drugs, does not require the Public Health Service review, which critics say only adds to the challenges of getting medical marijuana research approved.
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MAPS made some tweaks to its study design and got the OK from the Public Health Service. Last month, the group got pricing and availability information from NIDA. After it secures a Schedule I license for one of its researchers, it will launch a study testing the drug’s effects on 76 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s taken us 23 years,” Doblin said wearily.
MAPS has reason to be frustrated with the single-source system, and some academic researchers share Doblin’s complaints. Much of the most promising recent research on medical marijuana focuses on cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient.
The British drug company GW Pharmaceuticals began testing a mixed CBD/THC product in 1998. But NIDA only began measuring and controlling the concentration of CBD in its supply earlier this year. Researchers interested in the possible uses of any of the other 70-plus ingredients in marijuana have nowhere to turn.
After its phase 2 study is complete, MAPS will have to look for another legal source of cannabis. NIDA doesn’t supply the drug for commercial purposes, and MAPS wants to get FDA approved to sell cannabis as a prescription medication. For any drug to get FDA approval, the product tested in the phase 3 trial must be exactly what will be brought to market. Government pot won’t do.
The number of bureaucratic hurdles has led some groups to allege the federal government purposely blocks research into medical uses of marijuana, a charge government agencies have denied. Earlier this month, the government said it would more than double its planned 2015 production of marijuana for medical research.
Federal agencies may be turning away from the “reefer madness” biases of their past, but now the floodgates are open and a patchwork of state programs that supply marijuana directly to patients has stepped in to fill the void.
State Legalization Is No Cure-All
The rise of more liberal marijuana laws — 20 states have passed them since 2010 — is a victory for marijuana advocates and anti-drug war reformers. But it’s not clear that the gray market for marijuana these laws create is the best option for researchers and patients whose interest in the drug is strictly medical.
Sure, more patients can get marijuana. But they turn to it based on anecdote rather than research, according to John Hudak, a governance expert at the Brookings Institution. And their use of marijuana forces them outside of the medical system.
Brian Keller, a 52-year-old former optician in Scottsdale, Arizona, suffers from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Chronic pain forced him into medical retirement. Keller told Healthline that his pursuit of medical marijuana began with a trip to a strip of seedy doctor’s offices of the kind advertised in many alternative weeklies.
A 2013 survey of Colorado physicians found that most felt they should have more training and education before recommending marijuana to patients. Their concerns have pushed medical marijuana to the fringes of the medical establishment.
Smoking marijuana “makes me feel better because I like to be on the computer, I like to be able to focus, and you can’t do that when you’re stoned,” Keller said.
Keller’s doctors have supported his choice — particularly because the alternative is opioid painkillers, which are more addictive than marijuana and just as mind-altering. But they didn’t suggest marijuana. Nor did they ask about Keller’s use of it on the standard medical paperwork he filled out.
It was dispensary staff — who aren’t required to have any special training — who guided Keller through early trial-and-error efforts to find a strain that relieved his pain without getting him too stoned or keeping him up at night. As he found the right type and strength of marijuana, he found himself unpleasantly drugged once or twice. (He joked an indica strain has earned the nickname “in da couch.”)
Colorado has reported an uptick in young people showing up in hospital emergency rooms after using marijuana since the state made recreational use of marijuana legal in 2010. Mold on the buds is a risk for people with compromised immune systems, Pacula noted. But even with the loose system of oversight that has formed around medical marijuana, the drug has caused few bad medical outcomes.
Related News: Colorado Pot Engineered to Get You Higher »
Though it is easy for Keller to get marijuana, it’s not cheap. He pays about $400 a month out of pocket. Keller would ideally like to be allowed to grow the plant himself, he said. He’d rather go through standard medical and insurance channels.
Keller isn’t alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Epilepsy Foundation say they support the development of cannabis-based drugs under the FDA process.
Last year, The New York Times reported that one family’s public success using a high-CBD strain of marijuana oil to bring their young daughter’s seizures under control was driving a migration of families with children with severe seizure disorders to Colorado. Drs. Orrin Devinsky and Daniel Friedman of New York University’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center responded with an op-ed in the same paper urging caution.
“The truth is we lack evidence not only for the efficacy of marijuana, but also for its safety,” especially in children, the doctors wrote. “It is troubling that while few barriers exist for parents to give their children marijuana in Colorado, there are significant federal roadblocks preventing doctors from studying it in a rigorous scientific manner.”
Patients have the most to gain from access, which comes with more information about marijuana’s medicinal properties — and its potential side effects.
“I think there’s tremendous value in the clinical trial process,” said Kenneth Kaitin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Drug Development at Tufts University. “You’d understand the clinical pharmacology of the drug, a lot about the correct mode of administration, and more about effects and side effects. That all comes about with rigorous clinical trials, and in many respects if you’re a patient I think you’re better served by having something that’s gone through that process.”
Experiences like Keller’s demonstrate that marijuana can have concrete medical benefits for some patients, and they shouldn’t be kept in the dark about what they’re putting into their bodies.
“There are some states that are trying very hard to regulate the production and quality of the product, but there’s certainly a huge gap in terms of what states are doing versus what the FDA does in pharmaceuticals,” said Hudak, of the Brookings Institution. “I think there is a lot of space to improve the quality of testing, titrating and dosing when it comes to medical cannabis.”
A Scheduling Conflict
The biggest roadblock to higher quality research is the drug’s labeling as a Schedule I controlled substance. That listing means the federal government considers marijuana to have a high risk of abuse and no legitimate medical use. Congress or the FDA could demote marijuana to a less stringent schedule. Opioid painkillers such as OxyContin are Schedule II drugs, for example.
The AAP, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the American Medical Association (AMA) have all called on the federal government to move marijuana to a lesser schedule.
“Pharmaceutical companies’ ability to conduct research on marijuana is oftentimes stymied by federal scheduling. That creates a burden that just adds to their costs. Even if they started to do research that could be used to create cannabis-based medicines, the Schedule I status makes it extraordinarily difficult for them to bring those drugs to market,” Hudak said.
Researchers don’t just have to jump through hoops to get marijuana. They have to demonstrate to the DEA that they can account for every ounce of it once they’ve gotten it. Devinsky and Friedman said in their op-ed that they were keeping their high-CBD strain — which doesn’t make users high — “in a 1,200-pound safe in a locked room, in a building with an alarm system.”
Learn More: Could a Pill Block the High of Medical Marijuana? »
Federal laws have created roadblocks imposing enough that even with global interest in the medical uses of marijuana, foreign drug companies like GW Pharmaceuticals and a handful of Israeli companies have the field more or less to themselves. Even GW, with the support of the British government has “struggled to get through clinical trials” in the United States, Pacula said.
MAPS’s move to pursue drug development through a benefits corporation nestled within a non-profit makes clear that few expect cannabis drugs to deliver lavish financial returns. Bringing a new drug to market costs $2.5 billion, according to Tufts research. A drug based on marijuana could shortcut part of the process, and chip away at the price, because some of the work has already been done.
You can’t take a plant and patent it. You’d have to have some sort of a process for isolating the active compound.
Kenneth Kaitin, Center for Drug Development at Tufts University
Whatever the cost, drug companies would look to recoup their investment by guarding against competition with patents. Marijuana, a plant with a 2,000-year history, isn’t a great fit for the patent system.
“You can’t take a plant and patent it,” said Kaitin. “You’d have to have some sort of a process for isolating the active compound. But once you get away from product patents, the patent strength starts to diminish. Patents are progressively less and less of a protection because it’s a lot easier to reproduce a compound using a slightly different process.”
In the mid-1980s, with the AIDS crisis raging, AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, then called Abbott Laboratories, won a patent and FDA approval for a synthetic version of THC. The drug, taken in capsule form to treat nausea and weight loss, never took off. Many patients reportedly prefer smoking.
Pharmaceutical companies may also bring some of their own biases to the table.
“These pharmaceutical companies answer to boards of directors, and often times there are corporate interests that are still leery and skeptical of cannabis,” Hudak said.
These pharmaceutical companies answer to boards of directors, and often times there are corporate interests that are still leery and skeptical of cannabis.
John Hudak, Brookings Institution
Even as the social stigma erodes, the pharmaceutical industry won’t necessarily see its incentives increase.
“If more and more states allow legalized marijuana in the states and you can buy it legally, what happens to your market?” Kaitin said.
State-by-state laws aren’t ideal from any perspective. Patient advocates claim that access to a drug shouldn’t be determined by ZIP code.
“You have not just different rules at the state and federal level, but you have different rules from state to state. That’s not really an effective system of governance,” he said. “It creates a pretty messy system of federalism that … isn’t ideal and at the end of the day may not be sustainable.”
The Calm After the Storm?
Things can’t remain in the state of chaotic exuberance we’re seeing now. But it would be hard to unring the bell now that people in states like Arizona and Colorado expect to be able to buy marijuana at their local dispensary.
A few things could happen to bring medical knowledge about cannabis and patient access to the drug into better sync, even if efforts at federal rescheduling continue to fail in Congress.
As more evidence comes through suggesting marijuana can help patients, pressure could build on federal agencies to facilitate more research. The AMA has asked the government to do just that, and to guarantee that NIDA will supply “cannabis of various and consistent strengths.”
When we decided to legalize alcohol after Prohibition, we still wanted to know what amount of ethanol was in it.
Rosalie Pacula, RAND Corporation
If researchers found that a delivery system other than smoking — a patch or spray, for example — or an unknown compound or process delivered better results or fewer unwanted side effects, we could start to see cannabis-based medicines appear within the medical system.
“What would be required now would be some smart academic clinicians who develop a new understanding or a better idea of how to use it that would suggest that, if I really want a medical product that’s been tested, I should get that. I think that would change the environment,” Kaitin said.
Short of that, states could require that marijuana be identified by strength and strain, a direction some are already headed as regulations shift.
Many of these steps could be taken independent of the policy conversation about whether people should be able to use marijuana recreationally.
“When we decided to legalize alcohol after Prohibition, we still wanted to know what amount of ethanol was in it,” Pacula said.
April 6, 2015
Medical marijuana in Alabama is dead: Key senator says state not ready
Was it all for nothing?
Medical marijuana legislation won a small victory in an Alabama Senate panel on Wednesday, but long-time senator and chairman of the committee that sets the calendar for the floor says the bill is dead.
This means the full membership of the Senate won't even get a chance to debate it.
Sen. Jabo Waggoner, Rules Committee chairman, told AL.com that Alabama isn't ready for legislation that would allow patients with some chronic medical issues to purchase medical marijuana.
"It is bad legislation," he said. "We don't need that in Alabama."
Waggoner, who has served in the Alabama Legislature for 49 years, said he will look at the legislation next year and the year after, but he doesn't think anything would change his mind on it this year.
Sen. Bobby Singleton's medical marijuana legislation received a favorable report with a 4-3 vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon. Only Democrats voted in favor, and the measure likely only passed because three Republican members failing to attend; another abstained from voting.
See related: Could medical marijuana legislation pass this year in Alabama?
Singleton said he remains optimistic about, at least, getting the bill to the Senate floor and opening a debate on medical marijuana.
Jabo Waggoner mug.jpeg
Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills
"I respect Mr. Waggoner as the rules chairman and the rules chairman sets the calendar," he said. "I will respectfully plead my case with him, and I will ask him to place (the bill) on the calendar before the end of the session."
Singleton said medical marijuana is still a sensitive issue in Alabama, but he isn't going to give up.
He said the "climate is right" for this legislation. "I don't like to paint Alabama in the dark ages," he said.
Medical marijuana could help those with chronic pain and be an economic generator for the state, Singleton said.
On Wednesday, he said: "This is not about a smoke-fest. This is about trying to help people. I'm not trying to be the next Colorado."
Singleton's legislation would allow for patients who suffer from 25-specific conditions to purchase a maximum of 10-ounces of medical marijuana per month.
He is considering taking out a provision in the bill that would allow patients to grow their own plants. Singleton said that would be too hard to enforce.
The existing bill will also be substituted for one calling for a constitutional amendment, which means if passed, Alabama residents would have to vote on it.
There would be safeguards in place to keep the marijuana out of children's hands, Singleton said.
Physicians would be required to perform a full examination on a patient before issuing a prescription card for medical marijuana, he said. They would face penalties if they don't. A prescription card would cost $100.
While 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, the issue hasn't gone mainstream in the Heart of Dixie. Conservative lawmakers are still concerned with children getting their hands on the drug.
Sen. Phil Williams said he has seen too many teen drug addicts to ever support marijuana legislation. He sees marijuana as a gateway to other drug usage.
He vowed to block the bill on the Senate floor if it came to that.
The Medical Association of the State of Alabama declined to release an opinion on the legislation this year. Though, the group had surveyed Alabama physicians about the matter.
During a visit to the Senate floor today, former senator and gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith told AL.com that he would likely vote for medical marijuana if he was still in the senate.
"I would have to see it," he said. "I would want to make certain that the safeguards are there" like warning labels that are on cigarettes.
He suspected most physicians in the state supported the use of medical marijuana, at least for a limited number of chronic illnesses.
Griffith, a retired oncologist, said he has seen the benefits of marijuana usage for cancer patients who can't eat.
"Right now it is an emotional discussion (in Alabama)," he said. "It is not based on reason. Those kinds of discussions rarely go anywhere."
Griffith said if you polled Alabamians under the age of 50, the vast majority would support legalization of medical marijuana.
Studies have shown medical marijuana can help control epileptic seizures and
state sen. bobby singleton
State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro
(Alabama State Senate)
other seizure disorders, treat glaucoma, decrease anxiety, show progression of Alzheimer's disease, ease the pain of multiple sclerosis and other conditions, slow the spread of cancer, help with Crohn's disease and many other health conditions.
About two dozen medical marijuana advocates attended a Wednesday morning rally outside the Alabama State House. Several had hoped to talk about their illnesses and how the use of prescription drugs had ravished their bodies, and now marijuana was there only hope for relief.
But a public hearing was pulled at the last minute.
The issue is personal for Ron Crumpton, who drafted the legislation. He has spinal stenosis -- a narrowing of spaces in the spine, which causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves – and spinal disease. About five years ago, he had 40 percent of his stomach removed due to the prescription drugs he has to take.
Medical marijuana would be an alternative to prescription drugs for him.
Only after children with seizure disorders converged on the State House last year and pulled on the heartstrings of lawmakers did the Legislature pass Carly's Law, a bill that would allow certain children with debilitating seizures to receive marijuana-derived oil, called CBD oil, for medicinal use.
Children just recently started receiving this treatment through a UAB study.
April 6, 2015
The marijuana industry’s newest customers are sick and elderly dogs
A day before a scheduled vet appointment to euthanize her dog, Wendy Mansfield decided to try one last resort to alleviate the chronic pain of her 15-year-old labrador mix: cookies from a marijuana dispensary made specifically for ailing dogs.
Kali, a mild-mannered 80-pound rescue, was never much of a complainer. But she often licked her paws—an obvious sign of pain, according to her vet—which was typically accompanied by bouts of coughing because of the shedding fur that got in her throat. One cookie and 20 minutes later, the licking suddenly stopped.
Seeing this, Mansfield, who lives in Fort Bragg, California, gave her dog a second cookie, and then a third. Kali, who had been listless and depressed, got up to drink some water and walked outside—something she hadn’t been able to do recently without groaning or obvious signs of pain.
Mansfield then called the vet to cancel her appointment. That was three weeks ago. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated this,” she tells Quartz. “It brought my dog back.”
With marijuana flourishing into a big business in the US, a new segment of the market catering to aging and ailing pets has been growing under the radar. The legal weed market raked in $2.7 billion in revenue in 2014, and one estimate by the ArcView Group, a network that connects investors with cannabis startups, projects the industry to top $10 billion in sales by 2018.
The pet-pot market is treading on new territory, however. The legal gray area is posing challenges for companies that want to market and distribute cannabis-derived products for animals. There’s also insufficient scientific backing and industry guidelines. Still, that’s not deterring desperate pet owners, like Mansfield, or keeping investors from getting on board.
The FDA is watching
The special cookies given to Kali were produced by Auntie Dolores, an Oakland-based maker of edible marijuana goods, including caramel corn, cheese crackers, and savory pretzels (a bestseller). The seven-year-old company launched its pet treat line, Treatibles, about a year ago.
Unlike its edibles for humans, Treatibles products, which are sold in dispensaries, aren’t made from marijuana but from hemp—the stem of the cannabis plant that’s low in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces that feeling of getting high. Hemp, however, does contain cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound that alleviates pain. The US government also defines hemp as cannabis—not necessarily the stem—that measures less than 0.3% in THC, a threshold that allows its movement across state lines.
Most companies making cannabis-derived pet products choose to use hemp because the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. But as it stands, veterinarians aren’t empowered to prescribe cannabis to pets. That could change soon. Nevada is currently debating a bill that would allow people to obtain medical marijuana for their pets with a vet’s approval.
Though Auntie Dolores CEO Julianna Carella has heard from customers like Mansfield, she’s hesitant to promote the product’s effects, or even market Treatibles at all. “Honestly, we’re hands off with that because we’re not doctors and it’s not our place to prescribe it in that way,” she says. The company’s also wary of attracting the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration, which recently began sending out warning letters to some companies selling cannabis-based products for animals.
One such recipient is Canna Companion, which in February got an ominous letter delivered to its headquarters outside Seattle saying that its product is an “unapproved new animal drug and your marketing of it violates the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.”
Sarah Brandon, an owner of Canna Companion, had no idea such rules existed. She and her husband have researched the effects of cannabis on pets for the past decade, stemming back to their days in veterinary school. In 2014, they took out a $20,000 loan to build a business selling ground hemp powder that dogs and cats consume orally.
They also used language on Canna Companion’s website and social media accounts that made the product sound like a drug, rather than a supplement, which the FDA noticed. This included phrases as innocuous as “safe and effective” and bolder claims like “reduce cancer-associated symptoms.”
“Being vets, we are required by law to use medical terminology,” Brandon says, explaining the original phrasing. “We don’t say an animal has tummy pains. We say they have gastritis and we use those terms.” But she understood the FDA’s point of view, and the company updated the language on its site and social media accounts.
Peak Pharmaceuticals has an exclusive licensing agreement to sell Canna-Pet products.
Canna-Pet, a Seattle company that sells capsules and biscuits for dogs made with hemp, received a similar letter from the agency. “It’s not an unusual thing for the supplement industry where the marketer is making claims that might be going too far,” admits Soren Mogelsvang, CEO of Peak Pharmaceuticals, which has an exclusive licensing agreement to sell Canna-Pet products. “We’re all a little guilty of that and were reprimanded by the FDA. We responded to the guidelines and adjusted our marketing materials accordingly.”
That said, the letter didn’t negatively impact sales. “If anything, it might have bumped it up a little,” he says. “Any PR is good PR.”
The role of THC
Some companies play it safe by using hemp, but Alison Ettel, CEO of San Francisco-based TreatWell (previously known as SweetLeaf), takes issue with the ingredient. She says companies that make cannabis-derived products for pets often source industrial-grade hemp, which is bred for fiber instead of medicinal properties.
Ettel only started using marijuana after she fell into a coma in 2011 due to complications from meningitis. In 2014, she created TreatWell with a grower in Humboldt County in California. About six months ago, Ettel, a former dog walker and animal shelter volunteer, began custom-making tinctures after desperate pet owners reached out directly to her. She also gave the concoctions to her own cat, who suffered from cancer and lived to be 15 years old before she was put down in January.
Industrial- and food-grade hemp is typically low in extractable cannabinoids. Multiple vets interviewed for this story say cannabis is most effective as a medicine when its full spectrum of cannabinoids (at least 85 have been identified) are deployed, even if they’re not as well studied as THC or CBD. Furthermore, Ettel says most industrial hemp is imported from overseas, where farming practices, such as the use of pesticides, might be more lax compared with the US. Though the marijuana industry can’t lay claim to the organic label, which is federally regulated, TreatWell prides itself on using marijuana grown following organic standards, she says.
Currently, there are no guidelines for marijuana’s use in dogs. But TreatWell believes THC shouldn’t be discounted, even if it draws scrutiny from the government. “What I’ll say is we target certain ratios for certain illnesses,” Ettel says. “I can’t make any claims it’ll cure anything.” Though results vary by individual animals, the company suggests a THC-to-CBD ratio of 1:1 for pain relief and appetite stimulation. A THC-to-CBD ratio of 3:1 is recommended for conditions associated with extreme arthritis, for example.
Because it’s operating in a legal gray area, TreatWell has avoided marketing its pet products and has taken extra precautions with distribution, selling directly to patients in California with medical marijuana cards that have joined its collective. The company also requires vet records from its members to prove their pets’ conditions are legitimate.
“There’s always going to be risk involved,” she says. “To be honest, helping these pets and these people is much more important to me.”
Despite the risks, investor interest hasn’t subsided. TreatWell hasn’t taken any outside funding to date, but it’s currently in the process of raising money from investors so it can produce tinctures for pets with standardized dosing and sell them in dispensaries. “[Investors] already swallowed that pill,” says Ettel. “They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t comfortable with cannabis.”
That’s the case with Doug Leighton at Dutchess Capital, a marijuana-focused investment firm in Boston. “I’m already in this space anyway,” he says. He’s also not concerned about the challenges of selling the product because “the dog is not going to go to jail,” he adds.
One of the firm’s investments is in Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, which Leighton says is developing a line for pets. The company, which makes cannabis-infused drinks, treats, and lotions, declined to be interviewed for this story. A representative said it was too early to talk about its plans for the pet market.
Because the cannabis market for pets is so new, others are treading lightly. “The potential issues around politics and legislation are always a concern in the cannabis space,” says Emily Paxhia, a partner at Poseidon Asset Management, an investment firm in the marijuana industry. Still, she can’t deny the “massive market potential” since it sits at the intersection of two billion-dollar industries: pot and pets. In total, investors, including Poseidon, have injected $800,000 into Auntie Dolores so far.
Paxhia saw how Treatibles helped her own dog, Sprout, a three-legged terrier mix. She says the treats have helped reduce Sprout’s inflammation, caused by the additional stress put on her front leg, and calmed her anxiety.
Treatibles is still only a small fraction of Auntie Dolores’s business, having sold about 1,100 units thus far. To provide some context, Carella, who declined to disclose revenue figures, says the company “sold almost a quarter of a million units last year with all our products combined.” The edible goods maker is looking to raise an additional $1.25 million to scale its operations, and it’s in the process of spinning off Treatibles as its own entity, so investors can choose to put their money into either or both businesses.
Veterinarians are only staring to learn about marijuana’s effects on animals. In March, the California Veterinary Medical Association held a conference in Yosemite National Park where one of the major themes was cannabis.
Dawn Boothe, who teaches at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama, presented on the topic, but admits there’s much that’s unknown. “If you want to back up and have a discussion about the scientific evidence on the use of medical marijuana in dogs, we’re done because there isn’t any,” she says. Prior studies have found, however, that cannabinoid receptors are present in mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish.
Her department recently submitted a grant application to the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds scientific studies for animals, to conduct research on cannabinoids’ effects on dogs.
Peak Pharmaceuticals, which has a lab at the University of Colorado in Denver, is also doing its own research. It’s partnered with a vet hospital to conduct clinical studies on the effects of cannabinoids on dogs with epilepsy. The company has also struck an agreement with a university to study the effects of cannabinoids on horses that suffer from joint pain and anxiety.
“If you think about it, universities are still in limbo,” says Mogelsvang, who contractually couldn’t name the company’s research partners yet. “They don’t know if they can research cannabinoids and are worried about losing grant funding. The hemp laws, the farm bills—there’s very little case law that defines what’s right and what’s wrong.
Though Boothe knows the evidence is lacking, she points to past marijuana studies done on lab animals and existing human drugs on the market that contain cannabinoids. One such example is Sativex, a mouth spray prescribed in Europe that controls symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. It lists THC and CBD as active ingredients. “We can’t ignore the therapeutic benefits,” she says.
That said, she’s extremely wary of hemp-based pet products on the market, especially since there’s so little oversight for supplements.
Many players in the marijuana industry are hoping new research will shed light on cannabis’s effectiveness in pets and help the industry set guidelines on quality and dosage. (The companies interviewed for this story offer suggestions based on the animal’s weight, recommending pet owners start with a lower dose and gradually increase the amount as needed.)
What Boothe is most concerned about is pet owners making health decisions without the guidance of a vet. “I’d like to think that people would think it’s a bad idea to treat children without a physician’s advice,” she says. “I think it’s the same with animals.”
Even Brandon of Canna Companion agrees. “As a business owner, pet parent, and veterinarian, I absolutely understand that desperation people feel,” she says. “They feel this beloved member of their family is suffering and they don’t know how to help them.”
But she strongly urges pet owners to consult their vets before taking their animals off prescribed drugs. Suddenly stopping some anti-convulsive medications could make their dogs seriously ill, she says, as an example.
Wendy Mansfield never consulted a professional before giving Kali those cookies. Her vet, however, was open-minded about the alternative treatment and asked Mansfield to periodically check in.
Mansfield also reduced the number of drugs Kali takes now. Instead of taking four pills, two of them narcotics, Kali now gets three to four cookies every few hours and a pain blocker to help her sleep at night. “[Vets] are in a strange position, and this is all new,” she says. “The best way to gauge your dog is to watch them. With my involvement with my dog, my vet feels comfortable with my decision.”
Mansfield, who suffers from Bell’s Palsy, chose the same alternative for herself four years ago as she recovered from the effects of meningitis, encephalitis, and a medically-induced coma. Her doctor had prescribed her oxycodone, a narcotic pain killer, but Mansfield was adamant against it, choosing instead to self medicate with marijuana. “I never took one of those pills—never, never, never.”
She can’t help but see the parallel between her and Kali’s lives. “I’m a walking miracle, too,” she says.
April 6, 2015
A doctor investigates medicinal cannabis
One morning six years ago, Dr. Brian Dossey heard a thump on the floor above him. It came from where his wife, Kathleen, was changing clothes.
“I didn’t think anything could be wrong, because Kathleen had no health problems,” he recalls. “She’s a nutritionist and very healthy.”
Dossey, who managed multiple ERs in Northern California, was horrified to discover his wife of thirty years unable to rise, speak or function. She appeared to be having a stroke. He rushed her to the emergency room.
But tests and specialists couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Dossey was forced to bring Kathleen home, “where for a week, she didn’t even know who she was.”
Thus began Dossey’s multi-year quest to understand his wife’s condition. “What could cause seizures in someone healthy, out of the blue?” he asked. He found a connection between seizures and environmental toxins, so the couple eliminated aluminum, mercury and fluoride from their home.
As Dossey created a healthier environment, his wife’s condition improved. Her seizures reduced from three a week – to one every several months. “But she still continued to have them.”
Law and literature on cannabis
Dossey kept seeing references to medicinal cannabis’s ability to control seizures. He was skeptical.
“I myself had been absolutely against cannabis since I was 17-years old,” he says, “I felt it was not the way to solve your problems. And my wife had never, ever in her life come close to cannabis.”
Since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, Cannabis has been classified as a “Schedule 1” substance by the federal government. This means that Washington determined cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment” as well as “a high potential for abuse” – akin to heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. In 2001 and 2011 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restated these conclusions when it denied petitions to remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires clinical trials of humans to determine the benefits and risks of medications. Thus far, the FDA says, there have not been enough studies on the medical benefits of marijuana. Instead, tests have largely shown negative effects, such as impaired brain function, impaired brain development, links to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among teens – and addiction.
But keeping cannabis as Schedule 1 makes it difficult to get funding for research. As Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project says, “So you had that Catch-22, where marijuana is a Schedule I drug because there’s no evidence, and there’s no evidence because marijuana is a Schedule I drug.”
Desperate, Dossey investigated. “When your wife is having seizures,” he says, “the research consumes you.”
What Dossey learned
The Cannabis plant contains more than 450 individual chemical compounds and at least 85 “cannabinoids,” unique chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in the body.
Dossey says, “Every human being has canabanoid receptors in pretty much every cell.”
Only one cannabaniod, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces a psychotropic effect, or “high.” It does this by attaching to receptors in the brain, stimulating the release of dopamine and affecting thought, motor skills, time perception and the “munchies.”
But THC isn’t inevitable. It’s created only when marijuana is heated (by being smoked, for example,) or dehydrated. The process, decarboxylation has heat removing components from a (non-hallucinogenic) acid called THCA – and transforming it into the (psychoactive) THC.
When the plant is administered without decarboxylation, “You could eat the whole tree and not get high,” Dossey says.
Kathleen Dossey took her first dose of raw cannabis on April 28, 2012. She hasn’t had a seizure since.
Although Kathleen takes 2000 mg raw cannabis daily in a smoothie of cannabis leaves blended with fresh berries, coconut oil, maca and numerous other nutrients, “She has still never been stoned in her life,” her husband reports. Independent tests detect not a trace of THC in her urine.
History of medical use
Marijuana has been used medicinally for more than 3,000 years, according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2008 it was found in the tomb or a 2,700-year-old Chinese man; in 2014 it was found with the remains of a 2,500 year old Siberian woman.
Pain is currently the most common condition for which medicinal cannabis is prescribed in the United States. Compared to opiods, it is less habit-forming and has no risk of fatal overdose. Internationally, 25 countries have approved it for treatment for multiple sclerosis, and strains have been shown remarkably effective in reducing seizures in children and actually fighting cancer.
US Government takes out patent
On October 7, 2003, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged marijuana’s potential in the abstract it wrote for a patent.
“Cannabinoids,” the government said, “have been found to have antioxidant properties” making them “useful in the treatment” of diseases such as “inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” Its statement further noted the usefulness cannabinoids have in “limiting neurological damage” following “stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
CNN Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has researched medicinal cannabis since 2013. Gupta discovered, “emerging science that not only shows and proves what marijuana can do for the body, but provides better insights into the mechanisms of marijuana in the brain, helping us better understand a plant whose benefits have been documented for thousands of years.”
He has also become critical of “a Draconian system where politics overrides science, and patients are caught in the middle.”
With so many changes in medical and governmental perception, observers feel it’s inevitable cannabis will be reclassified from Schedule 1 in upcoming years. 24 states have now legalized cannabis for medical use, and 9 states have legislation pending to do the same.
In 2004, Robert J. Meyer, M.D., Director of Drug Evaluation at the FDA, said, “FDA will continue to be receptive to sound, scientifically-based research into the medicinal uses of botanical marijuana and other cannabinoids.” The FDA has approved two drugs containing ingredients from marijuana.
What Dossey does now
Brian Dossey now uses his medical degree to assist patients in Oregon (including Salem’s 1st Step Clinic) and California heal with cannabis. “My job,” he says, “is helping people. Cannabis is only one aspect of better health – but for many it’s a credible starting point.”
Most of his patients are over 55 and say they don’t want to get high. They suffer from severe pain, seizures, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, MS, glaucoma, PTSD, severe nausea, and HIV.
“We don’t give a [medical marijuana] card to just anyone,” Dossey says. “They must have a qualifying condition, and the evaluation is stringent. These people are signing up for medical because they don’t want to be associated with recreational.”
Not only can non-psychoactive results be obtained from raw cannabis, but also from strains being bred to reduce THC. Peter Gendron, Salem Cannabis Industry Association says, “There are varieties of cannabis that can be smoked without getting high… What makes these strains unique is that the ratio of THC to CBD [cannabidiol, the other most common chemical in cannabis besides THC] is essentially reversed. The content of one of our oils… is only 0.7% THC. This is a strong therapeutic product that will not get you high.”
Dossey’s satisfactions now come, he says, from relieving pain and symptoms many thought couldn’t be avoided, and from helping people get off prescription drugs that have debilitating – or lethal – side effects.
More about Salem Weekly
Written by: Salem Weekly on April 30, 2015.
April 6, 2015
The war on pain: Medical cannabis vs. ‘traditional’ medicine
No pain, all gain.
I ache from an afternoon on the basketball court at Southside Park. At 31, I'm not too old for this, but it's no help that my last game was two years ago in a Natomas adult league championship (still proudly display the trophy in my home). My feet swell inside my Nikes, shins burn and knees are like china cups at the crux of two sticks in a balancing act.
Of the other burning body parts: my hands from bracing the blacktop impact after a not-so-athletic tumble, my lungs from the jolt in cardio. The traditional sports-medicine diagnosis would be to rub Tiger Balm or Icy Hot on my affected areas, elevate and ice the knees, and if a “connect” exists, abuse a few prescription painkillers—maybe wash it down with a cold beer.
Or, nontraditionally, I could get stoned.
Not stoned in the rudimentary, burn-a-blunt to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (or Chronic 2001 for millennials) sense, but medicinally stoned, utilizing the healing agents of marijuana’s cannabinoids.
CBDs for short, cannabinoids are the lesser-known chemical compounds in marijuana that interact with our biochemical system. CBDs being lesser-known plays a role in the misconceptions of marijuana as an anti-inflammatory, since many tests strike out by offering patients THC dabs and tablets.
As Kimberly Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative, a wellness center in Sacramento, explained, “CBDs do not have psychoactive effects; it’s actually a psycho-deactivator.”
She continued: “It reduces the nerve impulses between the nerves, which reduces muscle spasms, anxiety and muscle inflammation.”
Because of this growing awareness of marijuana as an anti-inflammatory, A Therapeutic Alternative plans to change its message soon to highlight the center for having the most CBD products in Sacramento.
Their menu includes herbs, edibles, capsules, tinctures, oil extracts and waxes. So, for example, I can bite into a Pure CBD Cheeba Chew, knowing it contains 2 milligrams THC and 50 milligrams CBD, maximizing my intake of the ingredient that will go to work on those inflamed shins and knees.
Cargile even notes a recent study revealed that smoking or ingesting marijuana after a concussion or muscle injury might actually benefit the athlete. That’s right: The age-old trope of stoners as forgetful goofs is not entirely valid. Harvard University professors are writing impassioned letters to National Football League commissioners.
Cargile’s knowledge is largely based upon the findings of Dr. David Allen and Dr. William Courtney, the latter of which has suggested the marrying of marijuana with raw juicing.
Michael Backes of the Abatin Wellness Center in Sacramento commented on Courtney’s suggestions in 2012, noting that, yes, it is a nonpsychoactive alternative, but only if the prescribed is juicing the appropriate strain (of which there are only 24 or so in California) and not chewing on the stems, which contain sharp little hairs.
So, if you just completed a workout and are planning a post-workout smoothie or protein shake to replenish your body, try blending in the raw leaves or buds of an approved CBD-centric strain (as along as it’s also cleared to be pesticide-free). It’s enough of a hassle that if you have a green card and an organic home garden, then trust yourself to grow the raw smoothie ingredient. Even Cargile conceded that A Therapeutic Alternative is still looking for a grower that can meet the specifications before they’ll offer raw cannabis in the center.
As for whether or not you can go about your day as a functioning member of society that sees life beyond hours on the couch watching the Cartoon Network? Cargile says the CBD-focused products do not have sedative qualities, making them conducive to intake during the day without disrupting work or the active life. (Be sure to consult with your doctor on this kind of stuff, of course.)
So, is the reefer madness behind us? It’s starting to seem so. And ahead is the opportunity to soothe our pain without the risk of dependency on opiate-based pills.
April 6, 2015
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