By Steve Elliott
The Florida Supreme Court on December 5 will hear arguments on whether a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution, legalizing medical marijuana, should go before voters on the November 2014 general election ballot.
The announcement came just before supporters and opponents of the measure were to gather at the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College for a debate, "The Great Debate! Marijuana Legalization: Make An Informed Decision," reports Alex Sanz at WPTV.
The debate will pit Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), against Kevin Sabet, who director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and a notorious anti-cannabis whack-job.
"It's needed now because there are people who are ill now," said William Deans, an organizer at Medical Marijuana Petition Palm Beach. "We're going to have 900,000 petitioners before it is said and done with, who have signed to indicate that they want this issue on the ballot."
Jeff Kadel, executive director of something called the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, wasted no time in displaying his ignorance on the subject.
By Steve Elliott
A prisoner in Missouri who is serving a prison term of life without parole for marijuana has asked the governor for clemency after serving 20 years.
Jeff Mizanskey was arrested on December 18, 1993, when he drove a friend to a motel in Sedalia, Missouri, to meet two men, reports Ray downs at Riverfront Times. To this day, Mizanskey says he had no clue his friend, Atilano Quintana, was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.
What Quintana didn't know was that his two friends who were in the motel with a brick of cannabis had been busted the day before, with 13 bricks, and they had agreed to roll over and ensnare more buyers. There were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room; Quintana and Mizanskey were busted.
The surveillance video shows Quintana was the one who made the purchase, and the was the one in possession of the package when he and Mizanskey were arrested. Quintana got a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.
But this was Mizanskey's third pot charge. He'd been busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to a narc, and in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams.
Jeff, who had never done prison time and never had a violent offense, was given life without parole under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" law.
By Steve Elliott
A national cannabis education tour called "Weed Not Greed" is planning to launch next year, according to a press release from a group behind the plans.
"Weed Not Greed is on a mission to organize a national tour for cannabis visibility and education to re-legalize this long-cultivated plant of medicine, fiber, and consciousness," reads a Monday press release from the group. "To free innocent individuals incarcerated due to unconstitutional cannabis prohibitions, our group of passionate progressives will span the country visiting major metropolises.
" We are insisting on the right for anyone to grow, possess, consume, or distribute cannabis for all the gifts it has provided humanity over our thousands-year history together," the statement reads.
“We are making clear that cannabis use is a civil right, and the freedom to choose its use is as constitutional a right as freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness,” said Weed Not Greed founder David Kowalsky.
"The mission," according to Kowalsky, "is to educate the unknowing and to raise the issue above the level of a key election topic (of which numerous polls now show a majority of Americans favoring legalization) to immediate health and economic concern. The number of neurological and muscular diseases that cannabis can treat is shown in the dozens, including many types of cancer."
By Steve Elliott
Firing up a joint in the U.S. capital may soon get you in less trouble than a parking ticket.
Mayor Vincent Gray and 10 of 13 members of the D.C. Council have endorsed a plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana; this means cannabis possession would be a civil offense, rather than a criminal offense, reports The Washington Post.
Under the plan, recreational marijuana users won't face arrest, charges or jail, as long as they aren't caught with more than an ounce of pot. Instead, they would have to pay a fine, possibly as low as $25. The mayor also wants criminal penalties to remain in place for those caught smoking weed in public.
A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggests that D.C. and many other places enforce anti-marijuana laws in a racially discriminatory manner, arresting a disproportionate number of African American suspects.
The Washington Post endorsed decrim, saying "Enforcing criminal penalties against those who aren’t involved in trafficking or selling the drug would be too harsh and a waste of government resources."
By Steve Elliott
Endocan Corporation, a U.S. company specializing in cannabis and cannabinoid formulation-based health and wellness solutions, on Friday made public its ongoing negotiations with third parties in Colorado to start cooperative and joint venture arrangements for production, testing and distribution of Endocan brand products.
"This includes the long-awaited Endocan product line expected for release in early 2014, with Colorado seen as an early target market in the United States for testing in several critical ailment categories," a company press release states.
According to the company, Endocan's presence in Colorado "stems not only from the legal medical cannabis regulatory environment but also from the general openness with which Colorado has embraced cannabis, including the extension of legalization to recreational cannabis use for individuals over the age of 21, with a forward looking regulatory and taxation policy."
"This environment speaks highly of the future of Endocan Corporation's development opportunities in the state, with an estimated $200 million medical cannabis market at this early stage," the press release states.
"Colorado has now been my home for three years, my family having relocated to Colorado Springs," said Robert Kane, chief financial officer and senior vice president of business development at Endocan. "We have found Colorado to be a progressive, open-minded state with a compassionate position on improving the quality of life of its citizens.
By Steve Elliott
A scientist at the University of London's St. George School of Medicine has found that cannabinoids from marijuana can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer which kills 24,000 people each year in the United States.
"Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive," said study author Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. "For that reason, it has really good potential over other drugs that only have one function.
"I am impressed by its activity profile, and feel it has a great future, especially if used with standard chemotherapies," Dr. Liu said.
The study was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research. It was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes a marijuana-derived nasal spray, Sativex, that is used to treat spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
The study examined six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids, which unlike THC, don't get you high. The cannabinoids were examined alone and in combination; they displayed "a diverse range of therapeutic qualities" that "target and switch off" pathways, preventing cancer from growing, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Awardees Recognized for Groundbreaking Work to End the War on Drugs
Other Winners Include Seattle Police Department, Global Commission on Drug Policy, and More
The Service Intervention in Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies (SICAD) and its general director Dr. João Castel-Branco Goulão will receive the Norman E. Zinberg Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine, at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver on Saturday, October 26. The award recognizes medical and treatment experts who perform rigorous scientific research and who have the courage to report their findings even though they may be at odds with current dogma.
“Portugal’s drug policy stands out as a model for other nations committed to treating drug use and addiction in a health-based and fiscally responsible manner,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “I only hope that people in Portugal fully appreciate not just the wisdom of their own drug policies, but also the extent to which Goulão and the Institute have provided international leadership on the issue.”
Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências (SICAD) is an agency in Portugal’s Ministry of Health that is directly responsible for the implementation of the country’s national drug strategy. Its mission is to promote the reduction of harms related to drug misuse and drug addiction.
By Steve Elliott
With Uruguay about to become the first nation on Earth to fully, formally re-legalize cannabis since the the United Nations Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics in 1961, marijuana cultivators there are eagerly preparing for the day when they can openly grow the herb.
"To be a grower, once this is up and running, will be something like a sommelier," said Julio Rey, 38, reports Juan Forero at The Washington Post. Rey already has eight plants in two lighted cabinets.
Under a bill approved by the lower house of Uruguay's General Assembly, and expected to pass the Senate in the coming weeks, citizens will be allowed to grow up to six plants in their homes. Cooperatives of up to 45 members will be allowed to cultivate up to 99 plants for their own use.
Growers in places such as the rural town of Florida, Uruguay, where Rey lives, will also likely cultivate for the larger market, selling to the government. Cannabis will be supplied to pharmacies, the only retail outlets allowed to sell to individual customers. Marijuana smokers will have to sign up on a national registry, and sales to children or foreigners will be prohibited.
By Steve Elliott
Three months after the District of Columbia's medical marijuana program became operational, dispensaries in the nation's capital say they are losing money.
"All medical marijuana businesses are operating at a loss," David Guard, general manager at D.C. dispensary Capital City Care, told Andrea Noble at the Washington Times.
The District's medical marijuana regulations are among the strictest in the nation, and that is part of the problem. The D.C. program is under close scrutiny because of its proximity to federal lawmakers and agencies.
"We are not far from the attorney general's office and other offices, and we want to make sure we are running an airtight program," said Dr. Feseha Woldu, a senior deputy director at the D.C. Department of Health. "The continuity of the program is much more important for us. We want to make sure the program is sustainable and has a future."
Of course, for that to happen, the dispensaries can't continue operating at a loss.
"We were prepared to see up to 200 to 300 patients showing up into our offices," Dr. Woldu said. "That did not happen."
"So far, all we have been doing is bleeding cash," said Bob Simmons of Alternative Solutions, one of D.C.'s six approved medical marijuana cultivation centers.
Only 59 patients have been added to the registry of legal buyers in D.C. in the three months the program has been operational.
By Steve Elliott
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to put a ballot measure which would legalize medical marijuana before state voters in the November 2014 general election. Bondi on Thursday sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, along with the campaign's ballot language and petitions.
Atty. Gen. Bondi claims that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, filed misleading ballot language in describing how widely medical marijuana would be allowed under the measure, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel.
Bondi also complained that the ballot language failed to note that even if Florida voters approve the measure, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.
"Its true scope and effect remain hidden," Bondi claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court.
She charged the wording was too broad and would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for almost any condition, and additionally argued that medical marijuana could not be called "legal" as long as it's illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in federal law.
Bondi's arguments would come as quite a surprise to the patients of California, who have had safe access to medical marijuana for 17 years under state law, and to patients in 19 other states which also passed medical marijuana laws without asking for federal permission.
By Steve Elliott
Young Vietnamese cannabis users like imported marijuana better than the local product; their taste for Canadian and American cannabis goes along with their penchant for and Adidas and iPhones. Vietnamese youth have long shown preferences for imported goods of all kinds, and weed is no exception.
Potent North American marijuana is "easy to buy" in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, reports Chris Brummitt of The Associated Press, but it sells for up to 10 times the price of Vietnamese cannabis.
Marijuana is a part of Vietnamese culture, and has long been cultivated locally, as just about any Vietnam veteran could tell you. Despite the tendency of some revisionists to blame the local popularity of cannabis on the departed American troops, it grows wild in much of the country.
The trade in North American pot can be explained by the role Vietnamese gangs play in cultivating it in Canada and the U.S., according to some experts, which makes sourcing it and smuggling it back to Vietnam easier than it would be otherwise.
Vietnamese criminal gangs got into the marijuana cultivation business in North America back in the 1980s; they found a niche and expanded, and now account for a sizable share of the business in Europe as well, according to the AP.
Kush Bottles, the largest wholesale distributor of pharmaceutical grade containers for the natural health and medical marijuana industry in the United States, on Wednesday announced that they will be opening a new division to serve the Canadian market.
Canada is ushering in what it projects to be a $1.3 billion medical marijuana market, as it replaces small and homegrown cannabis production with marijuana produced by large farms (courtesy of the Stephen Harper's Conservative government). The market could eventually serve up to 450,000 Canadians, according to government estimates.
Health Canada is placing no limits on the number of these new capital-intensive facilities, which will have mandatory vaults and security systems. Already 156 firms have applied for lucrative producer and distributor status since June, with at least two already receiving licenses.
"We look forward to providing dispensaries with the highest quality packaging materials, bags, bottles, and labels in the newly established Canadian legal marijuana market," said Nicholas Kovacevich, COO of Kush Bottles. "With our experience in the industry and our high quality product line – including the world's finest child-safe bottles and vials, we are confident that we can help Canadian businesses in their quest to operate safe and successful ventures."
Kush Bottles said will be offering their products and their consulting services in Canada within the next few weeks.
By Steve Elliott
Colorado and Washington, with their new recreational marijuana laws, and the 20 medical marijuana states are grappling with the question of driving under the influence of cannabis. Lawmakers seem to feel some action is required, although there hasn't been anything remotely resembling a rash of marijuana-related accidents, as has been the case with alcohol.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Chemistry suggests that a marijuana breath test might work for law enforcement to test for THC in drivers, like the "breathalyzer" test performed to determine the level of alcohol intoxication, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.
The THC blood test which is currently used remains controversial, especially since it involves blood being drawn from the suspect.
According to the new study, scientists collected breath samples from folks who used marijuana four or more times per week, and also from occasional users (fewer than two times per week) after they smoked a joint containing 6.8 percent THC.
By Steve Elliott
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has selected the firm BioTrackTHC, a division of Bio-Tech Medical Software, Inc., to provide a legal marijuana traceability system to the agency.
Accurately tracking cannabis throughout the entire supply chain (you'd think the stuff was radioactive by how much officials stress over it) is a major component of I-502, Washington's limited legalization initiative approved by voters last year.
BioTrackTHC's tracing system will assist the WSLCB with tracking and monitoring all marijuana cultivation, processing, testing, and retail transaction data by cannabis licensees through the supply chain to help prevent diversion, "promote public safety" (what are they gonna do, make sure a bale of it doesn't fall on someone?) and collect tax revenue (ah, so THAT's why they're so worried about it).
The WSLCB directly notified 785 vendors about the contract opportunity for tracing marijuana; out of 22 proposals submitted, BioTrackTHC was the highest scoring bidder, 1041.65 out of a possible 1200.
"We are absolutely thrilled," said Steven Siegel, CEO of BioTrackTHC. "We are very grateful to all of our existing clients, partners, and other industry friends who have given us invaluable feedback and insights into making BioTrackTHC the most robust and accurate seed-to-sale system on the market.
Liquor Control Board Announces Its Intention To Ban All Personal Cultivation and Collective Gardens; Eliminate Affirmative Defense; Void All Current Doctors' Authorizations
"Health Before Happy Hour" campaign seeks state legislation to protect patient rights, preserve and license dispensaries
Medical marijuana advocates will hold stakeholder meetings across Washington State next week in advance of submitting written public comments on regulations being developed for I-502, the state's recreational marijuana initiative passed last November. Meetings hosted by the Washington chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) will be held from October 27th-30th in Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, and Yakima.
Beginning Monday, a working group established by I-502, which includes the Liquor Control Board, the Department of Health, and the Department of Revenue, will be accepting public input on draft regulations between October 21-November 8.
Among the work group’s proposed changes:
• Ban all personal cultivation and collective gardens
• Lower possession limit from 24 ounces to 3 ounces
• Eliminate the affirmative defense for proving medical necessity above possession limits
• Void all current doctors’ recommendations and require new evaluations under harder-to-meet definitions of qualifying conditions
• Restrict medical professionals to eliminate specialty cannabis practices and make recommendations equivalent to prescribing opiates