By Steve Elliott
The number of medical marijuana caregivers in Michigan dropped by nearly half in 2013 as new laws regulating the industry took effect, and court rulings and prosecutions curtailed the operations of cannabis outlets. The number of registered patients fell, as well.
The number of licensed caregivers fell from 50,188 to 27,046 in fiscal 2013, reports Charles Crumm at The Oakland Press. The number of registered patients fell from 124,131 in 2012 to 118,368 in 2013, a drop of just under 5 percent.
Despite the reduced numbers, Michigan took in nearly $1 million more in licensing fees in 2013, getting $10.89 million compared to $9.9 million in 2012, according to the Michigan Legislature. The cost of the program also rose, from $3.6 million in 2012 to $4 million in 2013.
Court decisions probably had the greatest impact on medical marijuana numbers, along with changes in state law, according to Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe. "I think that all of the court decisions that have come out have had a huge effect on that, McCabe said.
"The courts clarified a lot of that," he said. I'm not an expert on this but I would attribute a lot of it to all the court rulings on dispensaries and who can be a caregiver and who can't be a caregiver."
"It's much more restrictive as to who can be a caregiver and who can't be," McCabe said. "They've more strictly defined what is allowable and what isn't allowable."
By Steve Elliott
A Georgia family is fighting for access to a type of oil derived from marijuana to help their four-year-old daughter treat a disorder that causes up to 100 seizures a day.
Brian and Janea Cox want their daughter Haleigh to try a compound made from "a special kind of marijuana that's high in CBD (cannabidiol) that helps the brain, and low in THC," (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, reports Maggie Lee at The Telegraph.
Janea Cox said her daughter is on benzodiazepines and opiates that make her sleep 18 hours a day, but can't get the cannabis oil that could help her the most, reports Lori Geary at WSB-TV. Children in Colorado with similar disorders have seen amazing results after being treated with cannabis oil, which is legal there, she said.
"It's good to see people are opening their eyes," Janea said. "Hundreds of kids die every day because of seizures. I don't want her to be one of those kids. So, I'm going to constantly fight."
Back in 1980, the Georgia Legislature created the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program, setting up a process for doctors to investigate the effects of marijuana on patients with glaucoma and other conditions. But that program was unworkable as written; it never attracted any researchers or patients.
By Steve Elliott
Walking Raven, Denver's first official medical marijuana dispensary applicant back in August 2009, received their retail marijuana business license on Thursday, January 16.
Located on South Broadway and Asbury in the now famous "Green Mile" or "Broadsterdam" section of Denver, Walking Raven will be joining the historic handful of stores that have completed the state and city licensing process. The shop will open its doors to adult retail marijuana sales on Saturday, January 18.
Walking Raven said in a press release that for almost five years, it has effectively used its business as a platform to change their community's perception of cannabis consumers and generate new revenues for the local economy. "We are very excited to be a part of Colorado's historic transition to legal cannabis sales; we look forward to helping Denver's current shortage of legal cannabis by providing premium grade products," said co-owner and executive manager Luke Ramirez.
"We are also eager to hire additional staff and provide more resources to the Denver community through retail cannabis taxes and our charity efforts," Ramirez said.
According to Walking Raven, it is known for being a shop that carries premium grade cannabis grown by expert cultivators. Their most popular strain, "Hong Kong Diesel", exclusive to the shop, is well known among Colorado medical patients and is now available to anyone over the age of 21.
Patients and Advocates: Now It's Time for the Senate to Pass the Compassionate Care Act
A poll released on Monday by Siena College found that a clear majority of New Yorkers -- including 60 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of conservatives -- support passing legislation as the best way to "proceed on this issue" of establishing patient access to medical marijuana in New York.
The poll's release comes a day after reports of President Barack Obama discussing the need for marijuana policy reform in an interview in The New Yorker, and after last week’s announcement by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he supports medical marijuana.
Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced his support for medical marijuana and outlined a proposal to use his executive authority to launch a medical marijuana research program in New York. Advocates hailed Cuomo’s shift on the issue and noted that, because a research program would not create effective patient access, legislation is still necessary to create a medical marijuana system in New York.
"This poll reinforces what we already know: critically and chronically ill New Yorkers need a comprehensive bill for relief, namely the Compassionate Care Act, to be passed in the Senate during this 2014 legislative session," said Nancy Rivera, a four-time cancer survivor from Troy, New York. "We must not and should not have to wait any longer for a medical marijuana system to be put in place in our state. The Senate should immediately pass the Compassionate Care Act."
By Steve Elliott
A Republican state senator in Kentucky on Wednesday said that state lawmakers should look at whether oil extracts from marijuana can provide medicinal benefits.
Measures to legalize cannabis oil stand a much better chance of passing the Legislature than bills to legalize medical marijuana as a plant, said Sen. Julie Denton (R-Loiuisville), who chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, reports Mike Wynn at The Courier-Journal.
"People need to get comfortable with something that they don't feel threatened by, that they can understand and that they can support rather than going from 0 to 60 all in one fell swoop," she said. (I would suggest to Sen. Denton that her job is to educate her constituents, rather than dumb-down legislation so as not to alarm them.)
The committee heard nearly an hour's worth of testimony from advocates who said the cannabis plant (and its oils) can treat medical conditions ranging from epilepsy to diabetes.
Sen. Denton said that cannabis oil is more likely to win support in this year's session because of its low levels of THC, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana. (She has evidently heard about CBD oil, and has incorrectly assumed that all cannabis oil is CBD oil, but of course there is also THC oil and full-extract oil which contains all the cannabinoids).
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Pennsylvania will get a legislative hearing later this month, the chairman of a state Senate committee announced on Thursday.
Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney scheduled a January 28 public hearing in the state Capitol on Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, which was introduced this week. Seven members of the 50-person Senate are cosponsors.
Governor Tom Corbett remains opposed to the bill, according to a spokesman, even if it is scaled back to only allow "non-intoxicating" forms of cannabis. "The FDA is the arbiter of the safety and efficacy of all drugs, all substances that are ingested," Corbett's press secretary Jay Pagni said. "If the FDA were to run a clinical trial, the Governor would be interested in the findings."
The 34-page bill would allow patients with a doctor's authorization to acquire marijuana legally. It would create a Medical Cannabis Board; an enforcement arm would be run by the state police.
"There are sick children who have medicine that will make them better, but under current Pennsylvania law they are not allowed to take it," said sponsor Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery). "They are allowed to take much more toxic, less effective medicine."
By Steve Elliott
Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida on Wednesday announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.
Campaign manager Ben Pollara of United For Care, which is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis in Florida, sent out an email to supporters that the group has collected more than 1.1 million signatures, reports NBC Miami.
Organizers face a February 1 deadline to turn in 683,189 valid voter signatures in order to qualify. Election supervisors have already certified nearly 458,000 signatures.
"Literally thousands of volunteers contributed their time, collecting petitions in the rain and heat, on their weekends and holidays," Pollara said.
The Florida Supreme Court must approve the language that will go on the ballot, even if there are enough signatures. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, claiming voters will be misled into approving widespread use of marijuana.
The court has until April to make its ruling on whether the ballot summary is misleading. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 word summaries; the medical marijuana initiative's ballot summary has 74 words.
If the court approves the wording, the measure would need 60 percent of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent.
By Steve Elliott
The U.S. federal government's classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical uses took another hit on Thursday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said cities in his state of Nevada should move toward making medicinal cannabis available.
"If you'd asked me this question a dozen years ago, it would have been easy to answer -- I would have said no, because (marijuana) leads to other stuff," Reid told the Las Vegas Sun. "But I can't say that anymore."
"I think we need to take a real close look at this," the Senate Majority Leader said. "I think that there's some medical reasons for marijuana."
Reid, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church), "is not one who normally rushes to embrace controversial substances," drily notes Karoun Demirjian of the Las Vegas Sun.
When asked about legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol --which Colorado and Washington state voters have already done -- Reid stopped short of endorsing legalization, saying "I don't know about that; I just think we need to look at the medical aspects of it," but added, "I guarantee you one thing. We waste a lot of time and law enforcement going after these guys that are smoking marijuana."
By Steve Elliott
A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday would legalize the medical use of marijuana in the state.
Governor Tom Corbett has refused to sign any such bill until the federal Food and Drug Administration approves cannabis for medical purposes, reports John Kopp at Bucks Local News, but the bills bipartisan sponsors, state Senators Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer are working hard for its passage.
Sen. Leach has kicked off a social media campaign showing children who could benefit from medicinal cannabis. Sen. Folmer plans to hold a public hearing to educate his fellow lawmakers on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Children who suffer from severe epilepsy stand to benefit, the senators argue. They pointed to accounts of medicinal cannabis reducing seizures among children.
"This is a drug we need to get to these kids," Leach said. "If it were a derivative of a yucca plant, it would be in every CVS in the country."
Leach said the liquid drops used for children wouldn't contain any THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. They would, rather, contain the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD).
This is the first time that Leach, who has long supported medical marijuana, has enjoyed bipartisan support. He and Folmer announced their intentions last November.
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia may be introduced in the Legislature this session.
A recent survey of state voters by Public Policy Polling showed majority support for legalizing marijuana for severely ill patients, but state lawmakers have been more hesitant.
This wouldn't be the first time a medical marijuana bill has been introduced, said Delegate John Ellem (R-Wood), who said he's "not opposed" to looking at whatever is introduced.
"I would want it limited to the few conditions [medical marijuana] is valid for," he said.
But state Senator Donna Boley (R-Pleasants) expressed strong opposition to medical marijuana.
"We already have enough problems with prescription drugs," Boley said, evidently unable to recognize a solution when it's staring her in the face. "We would be opening the door for more problems."
Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) at the end of December announced he plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill, his fourth attempt to pass such legislation.
"We do need to do a lot more research," Manypenny said. "But in the meantime, there are a lot of people out there that are suffering with a lot of different diseases that I believe could be treated with this rather than using a pharmaceutical that has 20 different side effects."
Recreational Marijuana Legalization Boon to Cannabis-Related Companies
MagicalButter.com, a public benefit corporation and manufacturer of the MagicalButter machine, has greatly benefited from the implementation of new marijuana legalization. Since recreational use of marijuana was approved and implemented in Colorado and Washington, the company has recorded a major spike in the market for its MagicalButter MB2, causing the company to sell out of its already popular machine in just days.
While the company said it is ramping up manufacturing to meet this demand, the MB2 is on back-order through at least the first week of February, according to a press release.
"The combination of the media's new-found understanding and focus on the benefits of medical marijuana oil's ability to help treat seizures, our recently released YouTube video, "How to make MBO," MagicalButter Cannabis Oil, and legalization in two states created a buying frenzy," said Garyn Angel, CEO of MagicalButter.com.
"We considerably underestimated new demand for our product," Angel said. "Three months of inventory disappeared in a matter of days."
"We were already breaking projections at the end of 2013, but now we see that our 2014 estimates will need to be significantly revised upward to incorporate this tremendous increase in demand," said Angel. "We are considering an IPO, market conditions are stellar for cannabis related stocks, and MagicalButter is the largest PCAOB audited company in the sector."
Tuesday: Assembly Health Committee to Vote on “Compassionate Care Act”
Broad Coalition Unites Behind Comprehensive Bill
On Monday, the first full day of the 2014 New York State Senate session, dozens of patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers gathered in Albany for a press conference and lobby day to call on the State Senate to pass and Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the Compassionate Care Act -- A.6357-A (Gottfried) / S.4406-A (Savino).
People living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions; healthcare providers; and the parents of children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet’s syndrome, travelled from all corners of the State to call on the Senate to pass and the Governor to support the Compassionate Care Act, comprehensive legislation that would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
The lobby day comes on the heels of Governor Cuomo’s announcement last week in his State of the State address that he supports medical marijuana. The medical efficacy of medical marijuana has been well established in the scientific literature, and the feasibility of establishing comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana programs has been clearly demonstrated in the 20 states and the District of Columbia which have passed bills to establish such programs.
By Steve Elliott
The clock is ticking on the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) has until February 1 to gather more than 683,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for November's ballot, and the measure's top backer, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, last month poured $2.8 million more into the effort.
Morgan in December spent $2 million on the California-based signature gathering firm PCI Consultants Inc., which has bought airtime and sent signature gathering teams to malls and other public spaces, reports Aaron Deslatte at the Orlando Sentinel.
The $2.8 million total for December also includes an $809,000 loan from Morgan's law firm to PUFMM. Campaign finance records show Morgan's family and law firm have now contributed 83 percent of the the legalization drive's entire budget.
"I'm going to have the signatures; it's just a matter of if they're valid," Morgan said. He said that more than 1 million signatures have already been collected.
The initiative is still waiting for a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether its ballot language is valid. Last month, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the initiative's summary was misleading and could open the door to de-facto legalized marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
A state senator in Kentucky is ready to introduce a bill which would legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State.
"You ask yourself a question, 'Is cannabis medicine?' Yes or no are the only two answers, and the answer is yes," said Kentucky state Senator Perry Clark, reports Kelly Davis at WDRB.
Senator Clark has introduced a medical marijuana bill twice before in the Kentucky Legislature; he's hoping the third time's the charm.
"We are moving in the correct direction; we have a lot of people who were adamantly opposed to us three years ago that have seen a lot of evidence," Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, said.
Jaime Montalvo, who has multiple sclerosis, was arrested in 2011 for growing cannabis, but said he's not a criminal, and that he uses it to control pain.
"I never really feared the prosecution up until the time it happened," Montalvo said. "It helped muscle spasms; it helped me sleep."
By Steve Elliott
Will somebody please drag Kentucky Rep. Robert Benvenuti into the 21st Century? The Republican lawmaker, in a hearing on legalizing medical marijuana in his state, said the risks of pot are too high, and offered to "fill this committee room" with "parents of dead children based on the effects of marijuana."
Rep. Benvenuti's acute case of Reefer Madness brought some unintentional comedy to the proceedings, but it would be a lot funnier if this clown weren't in a position of power, denying life-saving medical treatments to patients with terminal and debilitating illnesses.
The fact-challenged legislator cited Kentucky's high rates of illegal and prescription drug abuse as reasons why it would be too dangerous to legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State.
"I do not believe in the recreational use of marijuana," Benvenuti said, "and I could likewise fill this committee room with first responders, law enforcement officers and parents of dead children based on the effects of marijuana."
The assembled crowd was having trouble believing that a public official could make such an outlandish statement in a legislative hearing. As a protest started to spontaneously erupt from the crowd that marijuana is not a deadly substance, Rep. Benvenuti forged ahead.
"In driving intoxicated, in child abuse, we've already heard today from folks who talk about intoxicants and its role in child fatality and child abuse," he said. "So we need no more recreational drugs in Kentucky."