By Steve Elliott
Boston sportscasting legend Bob Lobel is one of hundreds of Massachusetts patients who say they've found a safer and more effective substitute for opioid painkillers by using medical marijuana.
Lobel, 71, a longtime television reporter and anchor, has dealt with chronic pain for years, the result of numerous surgeries, reports Chris Villani at the Boston Herald. He's had two knee replacements, two rotator cuff surgeries, four back surgeries and, at separate times, fracture the tops of both femurs.
"That was brutal," Lobel said of the femur breaks. The constant pain which resulted left him taking handfuls of opioid pills.
"My issue was strictly pain," Lobel said. "I didn't want to take anymore OxyContin or oxycodone or Percocet, for a variety of reasons. The biggest thing I was worried about was addiction. But they also made me tired and it was hard to function and I couldn’t go on TV all drugged up.”
Pure curiosity led him to check out a medical marijuana event several months ago in Boston. While there, he met Dr. Uma Dhanabalan of the Uplifting Health and Wellness clinic in Natick, Mass. Dhanabalan is a strong advocate for patients using cannabis when they might otherwise find themselves addicted to opioids.
By Steve Elliott
The Federal Institute of Pharmaceuticals on Monday rejected proposed plans that would have allowed "coffee shops" in Berlin similar to those in Amsterdam, where customers can buy various kinds of recreational marijuana products alongside coffee.
Proponents of the law said they are still hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization in Germany, reports Jess McXHugh at IB Times.
"For us, the rejection of the plans was no surprise, and as such, it's also not a setback," said Georg Wurth, spokesperson for a cannabis advocacy group in Germany, reports The Local. "Political pressure is rising from below," he said.
The Green Party has long favored cannabis legalization in Germany. In 2014, party leader Cem Özdemir had himself filmed doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a tall marijuana plant in plain view on his balcony beside him.
The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin had submitted plans for four "specialist cannabis shops" back in June. The cannabis would have been produced in Berlin and Brandenburg, and sold only to residents of the borough 18 and older.
By Steve Elliott
Farmers in North Carolina may soon be able to enter the booming worldwide industrial hemp market, if and when Gov. Pat McCrory signs Senate Bill 313, which would legalize is cultivation in the state.
SB 313 originally had to do with license plates and registers of deeds -- that is, until an addition from sponsor Sen. Jeff Collins (R-Nash County), who added industrial hemp, reports Kat McReynolds at the Mountain Xpress. Gov. McCrory's signature is the last thing needed after overwhelming approval of the bill in both the North Carolina House (101-7) and Senate 42-2).
"From all indications, the governor is going to sign it," said hemp advocate Blake Butler, organizer of Asheville's recent HempX festival. "He's in support of it."
If McCrory signs the bill, an industrial hemp commission will be in charge of managing a statewide pilot program involving commercial growers and researchers. Industrial hemp is used to make thousands of products, from hempseed oil, to rope, to clothing, paper, plastics, and building materials.
The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill allows states to enact their own regulatory systems on industrial hemp cultivation. Twenty states have now adopted Farm Bill-compliant laws to accommodate hemp cultivation under various conditions. North Carolina law had remained silent on the subject until now.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon remained busy throughout the weekend after opening their doors to recreational customers on Thursday. The Oregon Legislature approved tax-free recreational sales through medicinal cannabis dispensaries through the end of the year.
Many of the shops opened at the stroke of midnight Thursday morning and were greeted with long lines of excited customers, reports Ted Shorack at The Bend Bulletin. Those lines continued all weekend, with thousands of customers checking out the shops.
"It was amazing," said Ben Hebert, owner of Dr. Jolly's in Bend. "We were totally busy all the time. I think we had a lot of happy people coming out of here."
Sales reached $55,000 on the first day alone, according to Aviv Hadar, cofounder of Oregrown Industries, which has a dispensary in Bend. As many as 2,000 customers shopped at his dispensary on the first day, according to Hadar.
"Our day two is bigger than most people's day one," Hadar said, reports Reed Andrews at KATU News.
Brothers Cannabis in Portland was one of the shops which opened at midnight; co-owner Nyno Thol said the shop is serving 600 people a day, about 20 times more than they usually do. "We're getting a lot of out of town folks and from Vancouver," he said.
Amy Schumer, Steph Curry, Ed Norton, Jesse Williams, Chris Pine, Russell Simmons, and Piper Kerman are among 90+ celebrities calling for reform to our criminal justice system -- a call sounded by #cut50, a bipartisan effort to safely and smartly reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
The historic campaign comes on the heels of major bipartisan legislation in Congress. Last week, an all-star group of Senators including Chuck Grassley (R-IaA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) came together to begin rolling back mass incarceration with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. In the House, the SAFE Justice Act has been called the most comprehensive justice reform legislation in decades.
President Obama said late last week that he was "optimistic that members on both sides of the aisle, in both houses… can put a meaningful criminal justice reform bill on my desk before the end of this year."
For the first time, major celebrities are petitioning Congress to pass a meaningful criminal justice reform bill and roll back the incarceration industry in America.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of American people, of all political persuasions, agree - it is time to fix our broken justice system.
The #JusticeReformNOW petition, organized by #cut50, has received more than 130,000 total signatures collected across multiple petitions hosted on Care2, Credo Working Assets, MoveOn & a recently launched petition at Change.org/JusticeReformNOW - all petitions call for a comprehensive, criminal justice reform bill this year.
By Steve Elliott
With legalization seemingly a near-certainty coming down the pike in California, there's a lot of excitement in the air. And the smell of money has joined the aroma of cannabis, stoking the excitement to a fever pitch. But there's a fly in that medicated ointment.
Inspired by successes in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, activists are hungrily eyeing California, the biggest prize of all in the recreational legalization sweepstakes, reports Dennis Romero at the L.A. Weekly.
Legalization fell short in the Golden State in 2010 with Proposition 19, and that sad outcome could see a repeat if multiple initiatives compete against each other to qualify, and if two or more reach the ballot and face off against each other.
What was supposed to be the unifying initiative -- ReformCA, from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform -- was the intended vehicle for all the big players in California cannabis politics to support; they almost pulled it off, too.
Patient Advocates Call On President Obama to Pardon All Defendants and Fully End Federal Prosecution of Medical Cannabis Patients
Kettle Falls medical marijuana defendants Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Michelle Gregg on Friday were sentenced to one year and a day in connection to federal cannabis cultivation charges. Fellow defendant Rolland Gregg received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal.
In March the trio was acquitted of all crimes they were initially charged with, except for the “lesser included” charge of cannabis cultivation. The defendants were arrested in August of 2012 after the Drug Enforcement Agency seized cannabis plants on their property, which had been grown for medical purposes.
They were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite Washington State law allowing for the cultivation of medical cannabis.
“Jail time for the Kettle Falls defendants is an embarrassment to the judicial system,” said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”
Following the DEA raid charges were brought against Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg as well as Larry Harvey and Jason Zucker. Charges were dropped against Larry Harvey who had been diagnosed with Stage IV terminal pancreatic cancer, but only a matter of days before the case went to trial, several months after his cancer diagnosis.
By Steve Elliott
Oregon's historic first day of legal cannabis sales on Thursday was a success, as marijuana consumers 21 and older statewide were, for the first time ever, able to legally buy retail weed without a medical authorization.
Lines snaked out the doors of many collectives at mid-day; the Tree House Collective on NE Sandy Boulevard in Portland had line of 8 to 10 customers out the door at around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m., the line was only a couple of people, and the wait had been reduced to around five minutes.
THC owner Nathan Roszina told Hemp News that creating separate queue and retail area for recreational customers was key in keeping down waiting times. Roszina said the shop wanted to address concerns from some patients that they might be subjected to long wait times due to the influx of recreational customers.
According to Roszina, the normal number of medicinal cannabis patients showed up for medicine; add to that all the first-time recreational customers, and it was a busy day. "It's been very steady all day long," Nathan told me. Many of the recreational customers, though, were curiosity seekers, according to Roszina, and only wanted to buy a gram or two.
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy to Mobilize Activists Statewide in Effort to Inject Marijuana Policy Debate Into 2016 State Legislative Races; New Texas Lyceum Poll Finds Three Out of Four Voters Support Reform
First of several regional advocacy training events will be held Saturday in San Antonio; UTSA criminal justice professor and former corrections officer Michel Gilbert will be a guest speaker
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will hold an advocacy training event Saturday, October 3, in San Antonio that will mark the beginning of a statewide effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races. Regional events are also scheduled for Dallas on October 31, Corpus Christi on November 7, East Texas on December 5, and Houston on December 12.
“Comprehensive marijuana reform saw tremendous progress this legislative session largely because families and regular Texans shared their stories with lawmakers,” said State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio). “The movement to change our antiquated and dangerous prohibition laws are gaining traction. However, that momentum will be lost unless citizens stay engaged with their lawmakers during the interim and campaign season.
“That's why these advocacy training events are so important because citizens will be the catalyst for change,” Sen. Menéndez said. “I'm excited the inaugural training session is taking place in San Antonio. Poll after poll shows Texans are ready for comprehensive marijuana reform.”
By Steve Elliott
There's lots of weed in Colorado, man. In fact, there's so much marijuana, overcapacity in dispensaries is driving down prices. Retail cannabis prices have dropped for a year now, but seem to be stabilizing in the third quarter, according to a marijuana store survey by chief market strategist Nicholas Colas and Jessica Rabe, both with Convergex.
Colas surveyed retail pot stores in Colorado and fought that cannabis fell from $50-$70 for an eighth-ounce to $30-$45, reports Debra Borchardt at Forbes. An ounce fell from $300-$400 to the lower end of $300 an ounce. According to Colas, all his contacts said that more competition was the reason for the downward pricing pressure, as more dispensaries and grow facilities open.
Colas said there were 156 retail marijuana stores and 204 retail cultivation facilities at the start of 2014, according to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. "At the end of December 2014, there were 322 retail stores and 397 retail cultivations respectively," he said, representing roughly double the number at the beginning the year.
As of August 3, those numbers have increased to 385 retail stores and 496 retail cultivations, a 20 percent and 25 percent increase respectively.
Prices seem to be stabilizing, but Colas said some stores sell ounces for $200. The survey participants told him they had to lower prices to compete.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Given Head Start Before Other Stores
Oregon Becomes First State to Expunge Prior Nonviolent Marijuana Records
By Steve Elliott
Oregon, which legalized marijuana in 2014 with Measure 91, is beginning sales Thursday, October 1. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be permitted to get a head start on sales before other, non-medical stores, which are expected to open in Autumn 2016.
This will ensure existing medical marijuana retailers have an opportunity to fairly compete in the new market as it emerges in the next several years. About 200 of the 345 medical shops have registered to expand their sales to all adults and expect a significant increase in profit margins.
Oregon voters passed Measure 91 in November 2014 with 56 percent support. Similar to initiatives in both Washington and Colorado, Measure 91 called for a slow and thoughtful roll-out of legalization.
In Washington and Colorado, possession of marijuana became legal over a year before retail sales began. This approach left adults with no lawful means of purchasing marijuana. This, too, was the path in Oregon until lawmakers passed new legislation this summer.
Possession became legal on July 1, 2015, yet the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the state agency responsible for taxing, licensing, and regulating commercial recreational marijuana, will not begin accepting applications until early next year and retail stores are not expected to open until late 2016.
By Steve Elliott
The Santee Sioux tribe in Flandreau, South Dakota, has announced it plans to open the nation's first marijuana resort and "adult playground" on its reservation.
The small tribe of 400 is undertaking the venture after already having proven their business acumen running a successful casino, a 120-room hotel and a 240-head buffalo ranch, reports Regina Garcia Cano at The Associated Press. The experiment could mean a new money-making model for Native American tribes nationwide looking for economic opportunities beyond casinos.
Tribal leaders plan to grow their own cannabis and sell it in a smoking lounge that includes a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, slot machines, and an outdoor music venue.
"We want it to be an adult playground," said tribal President Anthony Reider. "There's nowhere else in America that has something like this."
The "playground" could mean up to $2 million a month in profit, and work has already begun on the growing operation, according to the tribe. The first weed is expected to go on sale on December 31 at a New Year's Eve party.
The Santee Sioux decided to legalize marijuana in June, a few months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new policy that allows Native American tribes to grow and sell cannabis under the same conditions as states where it is legal.
By Steve Elliott
In what would likely have been a "Thank you, God!" moment for many of us, a 28-pound brick of marijuana fell from the sky in Arizona, crashing through a family's carport and crushing an empty doghouse.
Maya Donnelly said she and her husband Bill were awakened by what sounded like thunder on September 8, reports Murphy Woodhouse at Nogales International. Maya wasn't so sure it was thunder, but both soon fell back asleep.
But after the couple's children headed off to work and school the next morning, Maya looked out of her kitchen window toward the carport and saw splintered wood. She thought Hulk, the family's German Shepherd, had been up to some mischief.
“I went out to investigate, and sure enough, I looked up to see the hole, and then my eyes trailed down and the big dog’s house was destroyed," Maya said. "It made a hole in that hard plastic doghouse and the bundle was inside...” Good thing Hulk wasn't in there!
The bundle, worth an estimated $10,000, according to Detective Robert Ferros, was likely dropped by an ultralight aircraft by accident, reports CNN. "Normally they don't land on houses," Ferros said.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon are preparing for a big moment this week: when recreational cannabis users will be able to come into their shops, and, for the first time, buy weed, no medical authorization required.
Of Oregon's 345 registered medical marijuana dispensaries, more than 200 have notified the Oregon Health Authority they'll start selling recreational marijuana on Thursday, October 1, reports Gosia Wozniacka at the Associated Press. Some of these dispensaries may not qualify right away if they're still in the application process and haven't been approved, according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the OHA.
Oregon voters approved Measure 91 last November. The new law legalized possessiong and growing limited amounts of cannabis for personal use starting July 1. Since Oregon won't be ready to begin regulated recreational sales until next year, medical dispensaries are being allowed to conduct early sales of recreational cannabis, tax-free, as a temporary stop-gap and to curb black market sales.
Taxes on recreational marijuana sales won't begin until January 4, 2016, when a 25 percent tax on retail sales will be added.
Adults 21 and older can buy a quarter ounce (7 grams) of marijuana flowers. Edibles, extracts, concentrates and infused products aren't available in early recreational sales. Customers must provide government-issued photo ID as proof of age.
By Steve Elliott
Schools and anti-marijuana groups in Hancock County, Indiana, are debuting "marijuana goggles" at a community event this weekend, in what they call an effort to "fight teen drug use."
"The goggles allow the teens to see through the eyes of someone who has been smoking, without ever lighting up themselves," reports Jessica Smith at WISH TV.
"It's a huge problem in our community, underage drinking and use of substances," said wide-eyed Blair Viehweg, a Mount Vernon senior. "A lot of friends and teammates I've had have gotten caught and I just think it would make our community a better place if we eliminated it."
The teens on the Hancock County Youth Council -- a group of teens from four different high schools, with the goal of keeping other young people from drinking or doing drugs -- tried the goggles for themselves, "so they could use them to warn other students."
"It just blows my mind," Viehweg said. "It's definitely crazy to think it can do something like that to you." Yeah, Blair... it definitely IS crazy to believe that.
The students, while wearing the "marijuana goggles," took part in a simulated driving exercise. The goggles unexplainably take away the ability to see the color red, which of course makes seeing brake lights and stop lights harder.
Exactly why "marijuana goggles" would do that wasn't explained. I mean, I've smoked weed almost every day since 1977, and I can still see red just as clearly as hell.