Colorado Marijuana Banking Proposal Gets Tentative Approval in House

banking in co

by REUTERS May 5th 2014

DENVER, CO — Colorado lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that if enacted would lead to the first marijuana financial system in the United States, potentially granting legal cannabis businesses access to the Federal Reserve’s money transaction system.

Traditional banks have been wary to knowingly serve legal and medicinal marijuana businesses because the drug remains illegal under federal law, said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Jonathan Singer.

The cash-only nature of marijuana businesses is making them targets for crime, limiting access to capital, and impeding the state’s ability to track revenues, Singer said.

“This sets up a new type of financial structure to the gap we’re seeing between banking and the marijuana industry,” said Singer, a Democrat.

The proposal calls for new “cannabis credit co-ops” – similar to credit unions without deposit insurance – to be governed by the state’s financial services commissioner. But they would need Fed approval for access to banking services, such as credit card processing and checking accounts.

Voters in Colorado and Washington state passed statewide ballot measures in 2012 legalizing the possession and use of recreational pot by adults. Both states are among 20 that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

In January, the first recreational retail shops opened in Colorado, and Washington is set to follow suit this year.

The Obama administration in February issued new law-enforcement guidelines aimed at encouraging banks to start doing business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers, like those in Colorado, even though such enterprises remain illegal under federal law.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew insisted in testimony before lawmakers that it was not tacit approval under federal law.

The Colorado measure passed on Friday on a preliminary vote and will be formally voted on next week. It needs approval by the state Senate and Governor John Hickenlooper to become law.

The banking cooperatives would not be traditional credit unions or banks because deposit insurance would not be required under the measure.

Many have expressed doubts that the Federal Reserve, which requires credit unions and banks to have insurance, would sign off on the plan.

by REUTERS May 5th 2014

Medical Cannabis and a Parkinsonism Treatment

While much of the medical and pharmaceutical industries are seeking solutions to Parkinson disease via chemical, man-made means, there are other therapies which do not require habit-forming and potentially harmful medications. According to a new study, medical cannabis has been shown safe and effective in the treatment of Parkinsonism. Now that so many states are making the plant medicine legal, patients are finally getting access to a treatment which can help to improve their lives without incurring unnecessary risk.

The standard treatment for Parkinson disease has long been levodopa, L-dopa for short. Doctors have thus far been kept in the dark about plant medications such as medical cannabis. L-dopa comes with a host of potential side effects and difficulties with use. Patients who are on a steady regimen of the drug are warned to not miss any doses. The drug can interfere with sleep, bowel movements, and cause forgetfulness and confusion. When a patient is constipated for too long and the bowel becomes impacted, excess toxicity can build up causing unnecessary secondary problems.

Levodopa is also known to cause depression, suicidal thoughts, hives, and rapid heartbeat. Some elderly patients have been disturbed by nightmares brought on by the drug and they have fallen out of bed as a result. In an elderly patient, a fall can result in a broken hip. When a Parkinsonism patient is immobilized by a broken hip, the disease is known to develop at a rapid pace. Even with out the debilitation of a broken hip, a patient might cease activities due to the drug-related depression. Patients might consider all of these side-effects and be on the lookout should they arise, lest they cause secondary problems and further erode their ability to enjoy a full life.

Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a review in late April, 2014 which recommended the continuation of levodopa therapy. The abstract made no reference to patients’ risk of side-effects or secondary problems which might arise as a result of using the pharmaceutical. Nor was it stated whether the study was funded or influenced by interested parties in the pharmaceutical industry. Once it was common practice for journals to report potential conflicts of interest, but that reporting stopped in light of the fact that so many studies were tainted. Without further information, it should be assumed that pharmaceutical industry is involved in studies related to their products.

Medical cannabis does offer an effective, and safe, treatment for those suffering Parkinsonism. The medical journal Clinical Neuropharmacology recently released an observational study which offers new hope to those enslaved by the dual demons of pharmaceutical drugs and Parkinson disease. The study was small and preliminary, but promising. Twenty-two patients were observed after smoking cannabis using five separate measures of Parkinson disease symptoms.

The study qualified the improvements in the study participants as ″significant″ especially on the pain and sleep scores. The authors suggested that larger, more comprehensive studies commence. Given that there has been no clear evidence that medical cannabis treatment is addictive nor harmful in any way, it is clear that more states need to make this safe and effective medicine available to its citizens which suffer Parkinsonism.

By Hobie Anthony

Sources:
JAMA
PubMed
Medline
MayoClinic

Smooth Sailing in Colorado on 4/20 Just What Rec Cannabis Industry Needed

Colorado passed another crucial cannabis test last weekend, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the state’s fledgling recreational marijuana industry.

The annual 4/20 holiday went relatively smoothly in the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Not necessarily from an operational standpoint – long lines at the Cannabis Cup led to numerous complaints – but certainly when it comes to the behavior of recreational cannabis consumers who gathered at a rally downtown and other related events to celebrate.

The weekend turned out like everyone involved in the cannabis business expected: “mainstream and mellow,” as a headline on Al Jazeera America’s website put it.

And profitable, too. Cannabis commerce was alive and well, with companies reporting brisk business. In fact, many marijuana businesses raked in record sales, which will equate to a surge in tax revenue for the state.

This all led to some positive PR for Colorado’s fledgling recreational cannabis industry, which entered the weekend under a cloud after several unfortunate events involving edibles.

Sure, some people might be put off by the sight of tens of thousands of stoners gathered together all at once, smoking marijuana in public despite a ban on doing so. Authorities did issue several dozen citations for public consumption, and several people were taken to detox.

But the same thing happens at sporting and alcohol-related events all the time, and anyone who was expecting that no one would light up is way out of touch.

What’s notable is that there were no serious incidents involving marijuana use, despite heavy consumption and an intense media spotlight on 4/20 events. This sends a message to the rest of the country: legalized marijuana doesn’t create chaos, even when large crowds gather and consume it.

On the business side, 4/20 offered the world a window into the possibilities this industry holds going forward.

We’ll get a better idea of the extent of 4/20-related commerce when the state releases tax data for April in the summer. But it’s clear that the economic impact – especially when considering the influx of tourists – was huge. That could help convince politicians in other states to get on board with marijuana legalization.

Additionally, organizers of the main rally downtown put on a much more professional event than in the past, which further boosts the credibility of the industry as a whole. Long lines formed at the dozens of cannabis companies (such as Leafly and drink manufacturer CannaEnergy) with vendor booths, and some businesses gave out product samples to the crowd. The atmosphere felt similar to other mainstream events that occur in downtown Denver on a regular basis.

Last weekend could have been a recipe for disaster.

The industry was already under the microscope after a man shot his wife after consuming infused candies and a tourist jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana cookie, which fueled criticism of marijuana businesses and legalization in general.

A few images of incapacitated tourists who scarfed down high-potency edibles being rushed to emergency rooms or committing serious crimes – or the type of shooting that marred the 420 gathering in Denver last year – would’ve increased scrutiny on the industry at the worst possible time.

Instead, the ambulance sirens remained silent, and the scores of police and reporters on hand seemed a bit bored. The recent incidents involving edibles can be seen for what they are: isolated, and not necessarily directly tied to cannabis.

While Colorado and other states do need to address some issues tied to edibles, the responsible use of cannabis by consumers last weekend could go a long way towards easing recent concerns over legalized marijuana.

By Chris Walsh

Medical Marijuana State Action in 2014

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD


April 2, 2014 -- Medical marijuana moved up the legislative agenda in many states this year -- even in the most conservative parts of the country.

Utah became the 21st state to approve medical marijuana in late March when Gov. Gary Herbert signed the legislation into law.

In Maryland, lawmakers are working on a bill that would expand the availability of medical marijuana.

And legislatures in eight other states are looking at legalizing medical marijuana in 2014.

In Florida, voters will consider a ballot measure in November to legalize medical marijuana. Activists are working on getting medical marijuana on the ballot in Nebraska and Ohio and have until this summer to gather signatures. Alabama may allow people to possess marijuana as long as they're using it for medical reasons. Indiana may ease the penalties for possessing marijuana.

"It's a movement that has a groundswell of grassroots support," says Dianne Hoffmann, director of the law and health program at the University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore. "People are going to their legislators and saying they find it helpful to their illness, and these are sympathetic cases a lot of the time."

Legislatures in four states -- Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi -- also considered medical marijuana laws, but those bills did not pass.

Changing Attitudes About Marijuana

Marijuana is classified under federal law as an illegal drug with no medical value, but 21 states and Washington, DC, have rules that allow medical marijuana. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized it for recreational use as well. A recent WSJ/NBC poll showed that 55% of adults across the country think marijuana should be legalized and sold by a regulated business.

"We are reaching a critical mass," Hoffman says. "Enough states have passed medical marijuana laws that state legislators can say, 'Well, this many states have passed it, so it can't be that disastrous.'"

Also fueling the activity is President Obama's decision not to enforce the federal law. The Justice Department has said that federal prosecutors shouldn't enforce federal marijuana laws as long the states are following their own rules.

"So as long as there isn't a broad-based federal crackdown, states will continue to do what they want when it comes to marijuana," says John Hudak of the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington, DC. "And the polls are giving legislators cover to support medical marijuana laws."

States Taking Action

Here's a roundup of medical marijuana legislation in 2014.

Utah: The state passed a bill this month to legalize for medical use a marijuana extract made of less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that causes the "high" in marijuana.

Maryland: A bill is pending to expand a 2013 law that allows state medical institutions to use marijuana for research. The bill would give patients more access by allowing more doctors and others to provide marijuana for medical reasons.

Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin: All have legislation pending that would allow marijuana for medical purposes.

In addition to the pending state law legalizing medical marijuana, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in January that allows medical centers to use marijuana for research.

SOURCES:Diane Hoffmann, director of the law and health care program, Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland, Baltimore.John Hudak, Brookings Institution.Morgan Fox, communications manager, Marijuana Policy Project.ProCon.org.Marijuana Policy Project.Omaha.com: "Petition aims to put medical marijuana to Nebraska vote."Wall Street Journal online: "WSJ/NBC Poll: Solid Support for Legal Marijuana."Indiana General Assembly: Senate Bill 314.Georgia General Assembly: House Bill 885.Utah Defenders: "HB1-5: Medical Cannabis Proposal in Utah."LegiScan: "Maryland House Bill 881."Omaha.com: "'Will’s Law' would approve cannabis oil for epilepsy."Reuters.com: "Georgia bill would seek limited access to medical marijuana strain."NBC4i.com: "2014 Pivotal for Medical Marijuana in Ohio."Huffington Post: "Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect."Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Medical Marijuana Bill Falls Short."Associated Press: 'Utah governor holding ceremony for limited medical marijuana law for epilepsy."Baltimore Sun: “Medical marijuana deal near.”

How will the ‘green wave’ of cannabis acceptance reshape America?

Legal cannabis is raising spirits and revenues in Colorado, while helping Denver, the ‘Mile High City,’ re-earn its name. Thumbing their noses at federal lawmakers by legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis use, Colorado lawmakers anticipate taking in a whopping $134 million in taxes on legal pot sales this year. And that’s just the beginning.

High revenues from “getting high” got a major lift from Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement in January that U.S. treasury officials, wishing to cash in by taxing stoner dollars, will issue new regulations regarding banking services for state-approved cannabis concessions.

Banks in those states where pot is legal for medical or recreational use will now be able to offer business loans to pot entrepreneurs and hold revenues from lucrative marijuana businesses, without winding up in the slammer alongside many of the 750,000 Americans busted each year for possession or sale of ganja. Instead of spending approximately $10 billion annually fighting the hopelessly futile battle of pot criminalization, feds hope to top up the nations’ budget with a gravy train of revenues.  Time will tell whether this becomes a new revenue stream for funding schools and roads, or a bongs-for-bombs proposition.

President Obama, who has admitted to smoking marijuana in the past, threw his hat into the green ring just days before the Holder announcement with a seemingly off-the-cuff yet very well orchestrated set of comments on pot, as “a bad habit and a vice,” yet no more dangerous than alcohol. His comments indicate a seismic shift in the federal position on cannabis, and have sent tremors through the alcoholic beverage industry, whose members worry that at least some American booze revenues will go up in smoke. The slogan, “This bud’s for you,” is already taking on new popular meaning.

Meanwhile, in Colorado and Washington, businesses offering products rich in the non-psychoactive marijuana ingredient CBD or cannabidiol, are receiving visitors from all over the nation who are afflicted with chronic pain, MS, epileptic seizures, neurological disorders, and other health complaints that may respond positively to cannabis treatment.

A hemp lifestyle company called Kannaway is launching its own CBD-rich hemp oil for medical purposes, and predicts astronomic growth for the “hemp lifestyle.”

At the same time, NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is working harder than ever to beat pot prohibition once and for all, hoping to push states whose voters are receptive to medical marijuana over the voting edge in upcoming ballot initiatives. According to NORML, “Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use.”

Prisons, many of them for-profit private enterprises, will just have to identify other citizens to incarcerate.

Concerned educators point out that legalizing marijuana may be harmful to young people, saying the drug may damage their ability to learn. Like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis seems destined to be legally an adult-only product. Pot use among the young is bound to result in a great deal of clarifying legislation in most or all states. We can anticipate a lot of activity intended to protect our youth from cannabis.

With medical marijuana now legal in 20 U.S. states and legislation set to argue for the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in many more, the stage appears set for the final taking-down of pot prohibition, which, like alcohol prohibition, has failed substantially. Medical marijuana dispensaries, pot shops, cannabis bakeries, and hundreds of cannabis-based products, from pre-rolled joints to cannabis cupcakes and lollipops, are sprouting up in the market so fast it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Ever since the World Health Organization’s 1997 report on pot, which showed grass to be far safer than either alcohol or tobacco, lawmakers have fretted over the skunky-scented weed. With federal eyes now focused on perhaps billions of dollars in annual cannabis tax revenues, their panic has subsided a bit. In their starry eyes, green can produce green.

Eventual legalization of cannabis will neither be all good nor all bad. Like the end of alcohol prohibition, the end of pot prohibition will radically reduce criminal involvement in the pot trade. Like any other drug, pot will have its responsible users, its heavy users, and its abusers. To quote a curly-haired folk singer from New York, the times they are a changing.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France.

Uruguay’s president nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for legalizing marijuana

"It is a promise to bridge the gap between defiant marijuana consumers and the prohibiting society. Hopefully, the start of the acceptance of this consumption by society and the concomitant development of understanding of its use as a natural medicine, historically used for spiritual liberation, might initiate a process of healing in a world, very confused and deeply divided, over its religious legacy," the Dutch NGO stated on its website.

The president of Uruguay has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. According to his advocates, José “Pepe” Mujica's much talked-about marijuana legalization is in fact "a tool for peace and understanding."

For the second year in a row, the Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica’s marijuana legalization drive since 2012, insisting that the consumption of marijuana should be protected as a human right, has endorsed his candidacy, along with members of Mujica's leftwing political party the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (Collective of Uruguayan growers) and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).

Despite an avalanche of global criticism, in late December Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of the popular herbal drug. Under the new law, which comes into full effect in early April, Uruguayans will have several options to gain access to it.

The Drugs Peace Institute said that Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world."

The institute pointed out that, unlike coca-based products that reinforce the ego and individual self-esteem, marijuana has the "peculiar quality of diminishing the consumer’s ego." It pointed out that so far only one government leader has succeeded in challenging the prohibition: "the World’s Poorest President” - Mujica - dubbed so due to his modest lifestyle.

"Jose Mujica once said that he’s been looking for god but [hasn’t] found him yet. By legalizing marijuana and opening the doors of spiritual happiness to the young, he might not have found the god of other nations…, but he certainly has followed in the footsteps of Jesus when he said ‘Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these,’" the NGO noted.

“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Uruguay’s president responded in Havana, as quoted by La Nación Argentine daily. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana - we're taking aim at the drug traffic," Uruguay's 78-year-old guerrilla-turned president said.

The leader of the South American state has championed the controversial legislation as a way to snuff out the illegal drugs trade in Uruguay, noting that both Washington and Colorado had legalized marijuana. He signed the bill into law on December 25. The Uruguayan government has until April 9 to finalize the regulations that will govern the sale and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana aficionados will be given carte blanche to grow cannabis. However, the law forbids having more than six hives per person. There will be a cap on the amount that can be bought every month, initially set at 40 grams. Residents aged over 18 will have to register in a special nationwide database that keeps track of how much marijuana was purchased in the past month. The law will forbid foreigners to buy it, and in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40, the market price for the drug will be set at a dollar a gram.

Late last month, Uruguay's National Cannabis Federation launched special training courses on the cultivation of the popular plant. The training courses are also put forward as one of the measures taken by the authorities to control the trafficking and consumption of marijuana.

The international community lashed out at Uruguay's leader, with the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board chief, Raymond Yans, saying that Uruguay "knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty." Mr Yans argued in a statement that claims that the law would help reduce crime were based on "rather precarious and unsubstantiated assumptions."

Uruguay's president made it into the top 10 finalists for the award last year. However, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Mujica has been president of Uruguay since 2010. He was a member of an armed political group inspired by the Cuban revolution, the Tupamaros, in the 1960s and ‘70s. After the military coup in 1973, during the dictatorship, he spent 14 years in prison. This included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years.

When democracy was restored in 1985, Mujica was freed under an amnesty law. He was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a senator afterwards. When he became president, he pledged to give away 90 percent of his monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Much to everybody's surprise, the unpretentious leader has also shunned the grandeur of the presidential residence in favor of his humble farmhouse.

JUST SAY NOW! 82% of Voters in Florida back Medical Marijuana

Michael Budzynski is pictured with his mother Marilyn at home in Eustis, Fl. on Friday, September 6, 2013. The 20 year old suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a devastating form of epilepsy, that will eventually kill him . Michael’s parents believe his pain and suffering would greatly improve with the use of medical marijuana. (Tom Benitez, Orlando Sentinel)

 

82 Percent of Voters in Florida Back Medical Marijuana
Almost everyone in the state of Florida supports the idea of medical marijuana. A new Quinnipiac poll found an incredible 82 percent of Florida voters think using marijuana for medical purposes should be legal with a doctor’s prescription. Only 16 percent oppose this change.
Medical marijuana has overwhelming support among every generation, partisan leaning, and ethnic group. Even 79 percent of senior citizens back medical marijuana and they tend to be the group least supportive of any marijuana reforms.

This strong support is good news because there is currently an effort underway to get a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot. If the campaign succeeds it will need to be approved by at least 60 percent off voters to be adopted, which should be achievable based on this poll

The poll also found a narrow plurality support legalizing recreational cannabis, with 48 percent in support of legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and 48 percent opposed. On this issue there is a large generational divide. It has majority support of voters under the age of 65 but senior citizens oppose it 32-60. It is only a matter of time before a clear majority of the state backs full legalization.

Proponents say legalizing medical marijuana in Florida could help those suffering.
For 20-year-old Michael Budzynski, the good days are when he doesn't suffer the terrible seizures that ruined his mind, leaving him with the mental capacity of an 18-month-old.

On those days, the Eustis man isn't enduring migraines, and his restless leg isn't thrashing. His mother, Marilyn, sees glimpses of the bright, fearless little boy she knew before he was devastated by Dravet syndrome, a severe and incurable form of epilepsy that targets children.
She is convinced that medical marijuana — used successfully on 40 other people nationwide with the same syndrome — could give her son more good days. It's banned in Florida, but that could change if a statewide ballot initiative to make it legal succeeds.

"It gives me new hope that I haven't had in a long time. Our Michael has deteriorated to a miserable state," Marilyn Budzynski said. "We should not be denying people who could benefit from a chance at a better quality of life."

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 20 states and the District of Columbia for a wide range of medical conditions — cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and Lou Gehrig's disease, as well as epilepsy.

Although it's illegal under federal law, Justice Department officials have said that prosecuting medical-marijuana cases in states where it's legal is not a priority.

Orlando trial attorney John Morgan is championing the drive to make it legal in Florida through a state system that would license treatment centers and register patients. The petition drive, run by People United for Medical Marijuana, needs nearly 700,000 verified signatures by February to make it onto the November 2014 ballot. The group already has more than 100,000 signatures, enough to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot language.

Opponents counter that medical marijuana could pave the way for recreational use and further drug abuse.

Morgan said medical marijuana helps his brother, Tim, a quadriplegic who would otherwise take eight Percocets a day to relieve severe spasms. He saw how it eased the pain for his father, who died 25 years ago this week from cancer and emphysema.

"I know it works, and I know if it became legal in Florida, it would help tens of thousands of people," Morgan said. "Why would we deny someone who is terminally ill the most compassion and the most mercy at the end of their lives?"

Anecdotal evidence and a growing body of studies show medical benefits from marijuana as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug that is less addictive and has fewer side effects than other pain medications already available by prescription.

However, opponents of legalization question the medical benefits of marijuana. The Florida Medical Association is opposed to medical marijuana and advises doctors to refrain from prescribing it unless its use is approved in the future by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Florida Police Chiefs Association also remains opposed to legalization. Such a change could open opportunities for abuse, addiction and crimes related to marijuana use, the association contends.

"As a career law-enforcement officer, I do not want to have to deal with the effects that impaired individuals cause to other people," said Philip Thorne, chief of police in the Panhandle town of Springfield and president of the police-chiefs organization. "It creates all kind of issues associated with marijuana in general.

"Everybody and their brother would abuse the system to get marijuana."

Florida proponents want to set up a tightly controlled system to regulate the use of medical marijuana, hoping not to repeat problems with California's law, which is more lax.

The Florida referendum would require special ID cards for patients who receive physician's prescriptions to buy the drug through state-licensed treatment centers. The proposal would not allow people to grow their own.

"They don't want California, where with a wink and a nod, a witch doctor could give out a prescription," Morgan said. "People are OK with it, but they want it highly regulated."

One of the biggest arguments against marijuana legalization is its potential as a "gateway" drug, in which marijuana users progress to more addictive illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

But Morgan strongly disputes that characterization.

"For people with cancer, the nausea is debilitating, and the pills they give you don't work. But marijuana works," he said. "The only gateway drug for these people is the morphine they will receive at hospice."

Mary Anne Meskis, executive director of the Dravet Syndrome Foundation, said the concern about medical marijuana as a gateway drug also doesn't apply to patients such as Michael Budzynski who suffer from extreme seizures.

"Our kids will never lead a normal life," Meskis said. "They will never be out and about trying recreational drugs"
BY MARC CAPUTO
MIAMIHERALD

If a medical marijuana initiative makes Florida’s ballot next year, it could pass with an astonishing 82 percent of the vote, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that finds voters also favor outright legalization as well.

Support for the proposed constitutional amendment is strong among voters of every political stripe, age and income level, with independents lending the most support: 88 percent, the poll shows.

The overall 82-16 percent support for medical marijuana is the biggest to date. The previous high-point for Florida approval was about 70 percent in a poll taken earlier this year by the medical-marijuana advocacy group, People United for Medical Marijuana.

There are some differences in wording between the initiative and the Quinnipiac poll; the amendment says doctors can "recommend" marijuana, the poll asks if a doctor should be able to "prescribe" it.

Still, medical marijuana is clearly popular. And marijuana legalization is becoming more-liked as well, albeit narrowly.

Nearly half of Florida voters favor it — 48 percent — while 46 percent oppose pot legalization for personal use. That’s within the margin of error, but it’s a leading indicator of a shift in public opinion. Support for legalization is again strongest among independents (57-37 percent), and then Democrats (55-39 percent).

But Republicans are opposed 30-64 percent. Contrast that with GOP voter support for medical marijuana is solid: 70-26 percent.

One early poll and analysis from People United found that medical-marijuana was so popular that it could alter the course of the governor’s race.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana; Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich support the initiative, which is funded and led by Crist’s employer, trial attorney John Morgan, a Democratic donor. A major Florida Republican donor, former ambassador Mel Sembler, is opposing the measure through his Drug Free America Foundation.

In the race for governor, the Quinnipiac poll found Scott trailed Crist poll by 7 percentage points, 40-47 percent. That’s an improvement for Scott, however, compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll in June, when the governor trailed by 10 percentage points.

Since Quinnipiac’s last poll in June, Crist has lost some standing among independent voters. One possible reason: As soon as the former governor announced he was running for office, Scott began attacking him in television ads that began running a full year before the election.

As for medical marijuana’s fate, the proposed amendment — which takes 60 percent voter approval to pass in Florida — appears to be on an easy path to victory at the moment. But only if it makes the ballot.

The Florida legislative leaders and the state’s Attorney General want the state Supreme Court to block the measure from the ballot, saying the ballot summary is misleading and that it violates a rule that limits the scope of a constitutional amendment to a single subject. People United for Medical Marijuana, the advocacy group pushing the measure, say the criticisms are false.

“This poll shows yet again that Floridians overwhelmingly support a compassionate medical marijuana policy in Florida, despite the continued opposition of out-of-touch, Tallahassee politicians like Pam Bondi,” said Ben Pollara, treasurer for People United.

The Florida Supreme Court will hear the matter next month.

Even if it passes constitutional muster, People United needs to collect 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. People United has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 had been verified last month.

In November, Miami Beach voters approved a non-binding straw poll calling for medical marijuana by 64 percent.

A number of critics are starting to more actively denounce the measure in Florida.

Grady Judd, Polk County’s sheriff and the head of the Florida Sheriffs Association, likened marijuana to more dangerous drugs and pointed criticisms about the effectiveness of marijuana as medicine from the Florida Medical Association, American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“Lawmakers and law enforcement have worked tirelessly to get Florida’s crime rate to its current 42-year low,” Judd said in a statement. “Let’s not roll back that progress by legalizing a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

HIV Cure: Medical Cannabis Or ‘Weed’ Explored To Help Stop HIV Infection Using THC Component; Laws Prevent Clinical Trials On Humans

International Business Times 2/17/2014

Marijuana or "weed" is now among the several ingredients that researchers are looking into to helping stop further spread of HIV infection.

According to hundreds of marijuana researchers, an active ingredient on "weeds" known as THC pierced HIV-like virus in monkeys called RIV.

Marijuana To Prevent HIV?

Medical cannabis is used as an appetite stimulant, antiemetic, antispasmodic and sometimes as analgesic to help treat chronic, non-cancerous pain, vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. In some cases, it is also used to aid treating symptoms of AIDS patients. Researchers at the International Cannabinoid Research Conference are now digging up all the data they can get to track useful ingredients that may help to stop HIV infection. One ingredient known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can pierce to the monkey version of HIV called RIV.

Dr. Patricia Molina may not get medical cannabis into clinical trials for humans as the U.S. law considers marijuana as schedule I substance due to its addictive and adverse effects. Medically, "weeds" have been found beneficial in treating several diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. But proving an illegal drug like marijuana to stop a global pandemic threat on humans without ever testing it on them is impossible.

"It was ground-breaking. Everyone was in awe," Amanda Reiman, California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance told the Daily Beast.

Ground-Breaking Results

Dr. Molina and her team at the Louisiana State University tested rhesus monkeys. For 17 months, they found something interesting after the team administered high concentration of THC from 4-to 6-year-old male rhesus monkeys who were RIV positive twice a day and examining intestinal tissues before and after the chronic THC exposure revealed dramatic decrease in immune tissue damage in the stomach plus significant population increase of normal cells in the same region.

The study showed the working properties of THC by targeting CB2 receptors in the brain, which reacts to therapeutic aspects such as reducing swelling and relieving pain instead of affecting CB1 receptors that has been linked to THC psychoactive qualities.

Also, THC targeting CB2 receptors build new and healthy bacterial cells in the intestines which block the virus from leaking through the cell walls. Making the body work hard to keep the bad stuff inside the intestines while retaining good stuff outside.

In other terms, THC on CB2 receptors restored cells in the intestinal walls which apparently targeted and killed by HIV.

Medical Cannabis

Under the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the following symptoms and conditions have been noted under Appendix IV of the November 2002 report, "Descriptions of Allowable Conditions under State Medical Marijuana Laws".

1. Alzheimer's disease

2. Anorexia

3. HIV/AIDS

4. Arthritis

5. Cancer

6. Crohn's dieases

7. Glaucoma

8. Epilepsy

9. Migraine

10. Multiple sclerosis

Adverse effects of marijuana use include high addiction rate known as dependence, irreversible cognitive impairment, psychosis, schizophrenia, depressive disorder, cancer, endocrine abnormalities and respiratory problems.

OBAMA WILL BE PUSHED BY LAWYERS TO RECLASSIFY MARIJUANA

The federal government places pot in the same category as heroin and ecstasy as a schedule 1 controlled substance – a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use.


In a letter, signed on Wednesday by 17 Democrats and one Republican, to the President, lawmakers cite Obama's recent comments that he sees smoking marijuana as no more dangerous than drinking alcohol.

"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama recently told The New Yorker.

The lawmakers said marijuana's current classification "makes no sense," pointing to wasted law enforcement resources under "harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws."

"You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous 'in terms of impact on the individual consumer.' This is true," the letter says.

"Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs."

Voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, opted last November through ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana use. Another 18, along with the District of Columbia, allow some legal pot use, primarily for medicinal purposes.

The federal government said it would not challenge state laws legalizing marijuana. The President told The New Yorker it was important for those states' laws to move forward, calling them "experiments," but the White House has said the President remains opposed to a nationwide decriminalization of marijuana.

Attorney General Eric Holder can remove marijuana from its classification after an independent scientific review. But Holder has said that his preference was for Congress to act, underscoring that federal enforcement effort would focus on preventing marijuana use in minors.

"What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

Holder also said recently that local business selling marijuana should have access to the American banking system, and that Justice Department is working with the Treasury to come up with rules providing an avenue for banks to handle legal revenue.

Uruguay’s president nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for legalizing marijuana


The president of Uruguay has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. According to his advocates, José “Pepe” Mujica's much talked-about marijuana legalization is in fact "a tool for peace and understanding."

For the second year in a row, the Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica’s marijuana legalization drive since 2012, insisting that the consumption of marijuana should be protected as a human right, has endorsed his candidacy, along with members of Mujica's leftwing political party the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (Collective of Uruguayan growers) and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).

Despite an avalanche of global criticism, in late December Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of the popular herbal drug. Under the new law, which comes into full effect in early April, Uruguayans will have several options to gain access to it.

The Drugs Peace Institute said that Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world."

The institute pointed out that, unlike coca-based products that reinforce the ego and individual self-esteem, marijuana has the "peculiar quality of diminishing the consumer’s ego." It pointed out that so far only one government leader has succeeded in challenging the prohibition: "the World’s Poorest President” - Mujica - dubbed so due to his modest lifestyle.

"Jose Mujica once said that he’s been looking for god but [hasn’t] found him yet. By legalizing marijuana and opening the doors of spiritual happiness to the young, he might not have found the god of other nations…, but he certainly has followed in the footsteps of Jesus when he said ‘Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these,’" the NGO noted.

“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Uruguay’s president responded in Havana, as quoted by La Nación Argentine daily. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana - we're taking aim at the drug traffic," Uruguay's 78-year-old guerrilla-turned president said.

The leader of the South American state has championed the controversial legislation as a way to snuff out the illegal drugs trade in Uruguay, noting that both Washington and Colorado had legalized marijuana. He signed the bill into law on December 25. The Uruguayan government has until April 9 to finalize the regulations that will govern the sale and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana aficionados will be given carte blanche to grow cannabis. However, the law forbids having more than six hives per person. There will be a cap on the amount that can be bought every month, initially set at 40 grams. Residents aged over 18 will have to register in a special nationwide database that keeps track of how much marijuana was purchased in the past month. The law will forbid foreigners to buy it, and in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40, the market price for the drug will be set at a dollar a gram.

Late last month, Uruguay's National Cannabis Federation launched special training courses on the cultivation of the popular plant. The training courses are also put forward as one of the measures taken by the authorities to control the trafficking and consumption of marijuana.

The international community lashed out at Uruguay's leader, with the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board chief, Raymond Yans, saying that Uruguay "knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty." Mr Yans argued in a statement that claims that the law would help reduce crime were based on "rather precarious and unsubstantiated assumptions."

Uruguay's president made it into the top 10 finalists for the award last year. However, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Mujica has been president of Uruguay since 2010. He was a member of an armed political group inspired by the Cuban revolution, the Tupamaros, in the 1960s and ‘70s. After the military coup in 1973, during the dictatorship, he spent 14 years in prison. This included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years.

When democracy was restored in 1985, Mujica was freed under an amnesty law. He was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a senator afterwards. When he became president, he pledged to give away 90 percent of his monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Much to everybody's surprise, the unpretentious leader has also shunned the grandeur of the presidential residence in favor of his humble farmhouse.