Cannabis Law

Veterans Drop Hundreds of Empty Pill Bottles at the White House

Veterans call for medical marijuana
By on November 12, 2015

Published in full on the Washington Post.

A couple dozen servicemen and women marched to the White House this Veterans Day and dumped a large box of empty pill containers, calling on the president and other federal officials to make medical marijuana accessible to veterans.

“Here’s what the over-medication of our veterans looks like,” they said as they spilled the canisters onto the floor. “We don’t want it.”

The veterans and protesters—affiliated with various veteran and marijuana advocacy organizations—argued that Veterans Affairs hospitals are over-medicating veterans, prescribing them a large number of psychoactive medications to treat PTSD. They marched from McPherson Square to the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters, then to the White House, some smoking joints along the way, which is illegal in D.C.

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See the report on the Care By Design survey on cannabis in the treatment of PTSD.

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Ex-Board Members Say Medical Marijuana Inc. Acquired Through Fraud

Medical Marijuana Inc. accused of fraud
By on May 01, 2015

Published in full by Courthouse News Service.

SAN DIEGO: The new owners of Medical Marijuana Inc. acquired it through fraud, former board members say in a state court suit.

William Martin and David Tobias say the Hemp Deposit and Distribution Corp.—doing business as CannaBank—and its president and founder, Michael Llamas, lied to them to acquire a controlling interest in Medical Marijuana Inc. in 2010.

CannaBank is a private equity firm that "specializes in capital allocation thru [sic] mergers and acquisitions in several core industries," according to its website.

Martin and Tobias in 2010 were board members of Medical Marijuana Inc., which is organized in Oregon, based in San Diego and is the "first publicly held company vested in the medical marijuana and industrial hemp industries," the suit says.

As board members, each was a "large" shareholder in Medical Marijuana Inc., Martin and Tobias say.

In May 2010, Martin says Llamas sent an unsolicited email proposing to merge CannaBank with Medical Marijuana Inc. Llamas and CannaBank would exchange debt-free assets for a "controlling amount of common stock" in Medical Marijuana Inc., Martin says.

Those assets included 10 properties plus "various patents, technology, intellectual property, and products in exchange for 260 million shares" in Medical Marijuana Inc., Martin and Tobias claim in the lawsuit.

Both sides agreed to the deal in March 2011, CannaBank also agreed to issue 30 million shares in Medical Marijuana Inc. to Martin and another 30 million to Tobias, the men claim.

But after CannaBank obtained the 260 million shares in Medical Marijuana Inc., they say CannaBank never issued the agreed-upon 60 million in combined shares to Martin and Tobias.

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Prohibition’s Last Gasp: “CBD Only”

Cannabis Prohibition
By on March 26, 2015

"What is falling, we must still push."—Nietzsche

Industrial hemp oil marketers tried to put a positive spin on the Food and Drug Administration’s recent slap-down of companies that pitch CBD products as legal in all 50 states.

In late February and early March, the FDA sent warning letters to 11 companies for making unproven medical claims about their CBD-infused products.

The FDA also tested some of the commodities peddled by these companies and found that in many cases the products contained little or no cannabidiol.

The FDA warning letters did not address other mislabeling red flags, such as assertions that CBD is extracted from the stalk and seed of the hemp plant, not the leaves and flowers.

Nor did the FDA directly address CBD’s legal status. CBD hemp oil boosters were heartened because the FDA didn’t say CBD-infused oil per se is illegal.

But the fact that the FDA sidestepped the issue of CBD’s legality does not necessarily mean that the FDA signed off on it. The FDA has yet to approve CBD either as a dietary supplement or a drug.

Nutraceutical merchants, meanwhile, are chomping at the bit for CBD. They yearn for clarity regarding the legal status of CBD oil derived from industrial hemp with less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Cannabidiol extracted from CBD-rich cannabis remains illegal under federal law, despite the fact that it is not an inebriant, is nonlethal, and has no known adverse side effects (though drug interactions can be problematic).

State legislatures aren’t waiting for a signal from the Feds. Thirteen states in recent months have enacted so-called “CBD-only” laws, or better put, “Low THC laws,” though a cynic might call them “Keep marijuana illegal” laws.

Backed by conservative Republicans and blue dog Democrats who have long opposed medical marijuana, most of these CBD-only bills ostensibly provide an affirmative defense that allow certain people to use cannabidiol-rich oil derived from hemp or cannabis that measures below or near 0.3 percent THC, the federal guideline. But each state government sets its own rules. Some limit the sources of CBD-rich products and specify a narrow range of conditions for which CBD can be used; others do not.

Will CBD-only laws prove to be a key first step toward full-fledged medical marijuana legislation in Red State America? Or is “CBD-only” a cul-de-sac that delays and thwarts safe access to a broader range of cannabis therapies?

To date, it is difficult for residents of CBD-only states to obtain CBD-rich oil legally. And even if they could, many would be disappointed to find that low-THC oil doesn’t work for everyone. Most medical marijuana patients are not adequately served by CBD-only laws. They need access to a wide spectrum of whole plant cannabis remedies, not just low THC medicine.

Parents of children with seizure disorders and other serious illnesses have been at the forefront of lobbying state officials to enact laws to protect families seeking access to CBD-rich oils. In February, politicians in Virginia—where hemp growing was once mandatory by colonial decree—enacted low THC legislation in response to pleas from parents and other patient advocates.

The Virginia parents had learned through online discussion groups and illicit, hands-on experimentation that augmenting CBD-rich oil by adding some THC—or better yet, THCA, the raw unheated version of THC—helps with seizure control in many instances.

THCA, like CBD, is a non-psychotropic marijuana compound. If ingested, THCA doesn’t make a person feel “high.” THCA turns into THC, The High Causer, after the dried marijuana flower-tops are “activated” by exposure to heat via combustion or cooking.

So the Virginia pols “legalized” THCA, as well as CBD, thereby providing an affirmative defense for some patients who need safe access to medicinal cannabis.

For years, elected officials and government bureaucrats have slandered this plant, demonized it, demeaned it, and denied its therapeutic value. And now, after decades of hyperbolizing the evil weed and trivializing the funny stuff, policymakers are chopping the herb into bits and pieces, legalizing some marijuana molecules while shunning other parts of the still forbidden Schedule I botanical.

And if all else fails our fearless leaders, who have long since forfeited any claim to credibility with respect to marijuana, have one last trick up their sleeve. They can consign the plant to Schedule II and restrict patient access by needlessly insisting that doctors write prescriptions in triplicate for those who might benefit from cannabis therapeutics.

Rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II substance should smooth the way for long-suppressed clinical research. That would be a positive development. Placing cannabis in Schedule II would be a significant advancement in other ways, as well. But Schedule II doesn’t go nearly far enough. Cannabis—high THC, CBD rich, and any variation thereof—should be de-scheduled and regulated as a medicinal herb, not as a single-molecule pharmaceutical or a street drug.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

CBD Misconceptions

Cannabis misconceptions, marijuana misinformation
By on February 18, 2015

Updated: August 2, 2015

It doesn’t get you high, but it’s causing quite a buzz among medical scientists and patients. The past year has seen a surge of interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound with significant therapeutic properties. Numerous commercial start-ups and internet retailers have jumped on the CBD bandwagon, touting CBD derived from industrial hemp as the next big thing, a miracle oil that can shrink tumors, quell seizures, and ease chronic pain—without making people feel “stoned.” But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aid there has been a proliferation of misconceptions about CBD.

  1. “CBD is medical. THC is recreational.” Project CBD receives many inquiries from around the world and oftentimes people say they are seeking “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer,” has awesome therapeutic properties. Scientists at the Scripps Research Center in San Diego reported that THC inhibits an enzyme implicated in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. The federal government recognizes single-molecule THC (Marinol) as an anti-nausea compound and appetite booster, deeming it a Schedule III drug, a category reserved for medicinal substances with little abuse potential. But whole plant marijuana, the only natural source of THC, continues to be classified as a dangerous Schedule I drug with no medical value.
  2. “THC is the bad cannabinoid. CBD is the good cannabinoid.” The drug warrior’s strategic retreat: Give ground on CBD while continuing to demonize THC. Diehard marijuana prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatize high-THC cannabis, casting tetrahydrocannabinol as the bad cannabinoid, whereas CBD is framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you high like THC does. Project CBD categorically rejects this moralistic, reefer madness dichotomy in favor of whole plant cannabis therapeutics. (Read the foundational science paper: A Tale of Two Cannabinoids.)
  3. “CBD is most effective without THC.” THC and CBD are the power couple of cannabis compounds—they work best together. Scientific studies have established that CBD and THC interact synergistically to enhance each other’s therapeutic effects. British researchers have shown that CBD potentiates THC’s anti-inflammatory properties in an animal model of colitis. Scientists at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco determined that a combination of CBD and THC has a more potent anti-tumoral effect than either compound alone when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines. And extensive clinical research has demonstrated that CBD combined with THC is more beneficial for neuropathic pain than either compound as a single molecule.
  4. “Single-molecule pharmaceuticals are superior to ‘crude’ whole plant medicinals.” According to the federal government, specific components of the marijuana plant (THC, CBD) have medical value, but the plant itself does not have medical value. Uncle Sam’s single-molecule blinders reflect a cultural and political bias that privileges Big Pharma products. Single-molecule medicine is the predominant corporate way, the FDA-approved way, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the optimal way to benefit from cannabis therapeutics. Cannabis contains several hundred compounds, including various flavonoids, aromatic terpenes, and many minor cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD. Each of these compounds has specific healing attributes, but when combined they create what scientists refer to as a holistic “entourage effect,” so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its single-molecule parts. The Food and Drug Administration, however, isn’t in the business of approving plants as medicine. (See the scientific evidence.)
  5. “Psychoactivity is inherently an adverse side effect.” According to politically correct drug war catechism, the marijuana high is an unwanted side effect. Big Pharma is keen on synthesizing medically active marijuana-like molecules that don’t make people high—although it’s not obvious why mild euphoric feelings are intrinsically negative for a sick person or a healthy person, for that matter. In ancient Greece, the word euphoria meant “having health,” a state of well-being. The euphoric qualities of cannabis, far from being an unwholesome side effect, are deeply implicated in the therapeutic value of the plant. “We should be thinking of cannabis as a medicine first,” said Dr. Tod Mikuriya, “that happens to have some psychoactive properties, as many medicines do, rather than as an intoxicant that happens to have a few therapeutic properties on the side.”
  6. “CBD is legal in all 50 states.” Purveyors of imported, CBD-infused hemp oil claim it’s legal to market their wares anywhere in the United States as long as the oil contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Actually, it’s not so simple. Federal law prohibits U.S. farmers from growing hemp as a commercial crop, but the sale of imported, low-THC, industrial hemp products is permitted in the United States as long as these products are derived from the seed or stalk of the plant, not from the leaves and flowers. Here’s the catch: Cannabidiol can’t be pressed or extracted from hempseed. CBD can be extracted from the flower, leaves, and, only to a very minor extent, from the stalk of the hemp plant. Hemp oil start-ups lack credibility when they say their CBD comes from hempseed and stalk. Congress may soon vote to exempt industrial hemp and CBD from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Such legislation would not be necessary if CBD derived from foreign-grown hemp was already legal throughout the United States. 
  7. “'CBD-only’ laws adequately serve the patient population.” Fifteen U.S. state legislatures have passed “CBD only” (or, more accurately, “low THC”) laws, and other states are poised to follow suit. Some states restrict the sources of CBD-rich products and specify the diseases for which CBD can be accessed; others do not. Ostensibly these laws allow the use of CBD-infused oil derived from hemp or cannabis that measures less than 0.3 percent THC. But a CBD-rich remedy with little THC doesn’t work for everyone. Parents of epileptic children have found that adding some THC (or THCA, the raw unheated version of THC) helps with seizure control in many instances. For some epileptics, THC-dominant strains are more effective than CBD-rich products. The vast majority of patients are not well served by CBD-only laws. They need access to a broad spectrum of whole plant cannabis remedies, not just the low THC medicine. One size doesn’t fit all with respect to cannabis therapeutics, and neither does one compound or one product or one strain. (Read more: Prohibition’s Last Gasp: “CBD Only.”)
  8. “CBD is CBD—It doesn’t matter where it comes from.” Yes it does matter. The flower-tops and leaves of some industrial hemp strains may be a viable source of CBD (legal issues notwithstanding), but hemp is by no means an optimal source of cannabidiol. Industrial hemp typically contains far less cannabidiol than CBD-rich cannabis. Huge amounts of industrial hemp are required to extract a small amount of CBD, thereby raising the risk of toxic contaminants because hemp is a “bio-accumulator” that draws heavy metals from the soil. Single-molecule CBD synthesized in a lab or extracted and refined from industrial hemp lacks critical medicinal terpenes and secondary cannabinoids found in cannabis strains. These compounds interact with CBD and THC to enhance their therapeutic benefits. (See also: Sourcing CBD: Marijuana, Industrial Hemp & the Vagaries of Federal Law.)

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

Florida Fiasco: Did ‘CBD-Only’ Subvert Medical Marijuana Measure?

Florida's medical marijuana fiasco
By on December 04, 2014

The “Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative”—better known as Amendment 2—seemed very likely to pass as of July 2014, when 88 percent of prospective voters supported “allowing adults in Florida to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it,” according to the respected Quinnipiac University poll.

Amendment 2’s intent was to legalize marijuana use for patients coping with any “conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks.” Also, to legalize “medical marijuana treatment centers,” otherwise known as dispensaries.

How did it happen that a medical marijuana ballot initiative supported by almost 90% of Florida voters in the spring was defeated in November? Let us count the ways.

1. The “supermajority” requirement

Because the Florida legislature has voted down medical marijuana bills in recent years, reformers took their case directly to the voters in 2014 with a ballot initiative.

And because the Florida legislature can weaken or even throw out a law passed by the voters, the reformers framed their initiative as an Amendment to the state constitution (which legislators beholden to lobbyists wouldn’t be able to mess with).

However, an Amendment requires not a “simple” majority of voters (as in democracy) but a 60% “super” majority (as in maintain the status quo).

Florida’s medical marijuana initiative garnered 58% of the vote on Election Day. Meaning it lost.

Until 2006 an Amendment to the Florida constitution required only a “simple” majority. Then, as explained by Alan Farago on Counterpunch.org, “the GOP legislature and its patrons, Big Sugar, the Florida Homebuilders, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, began demonizing a ballot initiative called ‘Hometown Democracy.’”

Hometown Democracy would have allowed citizens to vote on changes to community and municipal master development plans (which affect the environment and everybody’s quality of life). To defeat it (and an initiative raising the minimum wage), the Florida legislature placed on the ballot an initiative establishing the 60% requirement on constitutional amendments. (The ballot initiative to require a super-majority required a simple majority.)

The well-funded campaign against Hometown Democracy, writes Farago, “was managed by a Jeb Bush lieutenant, John Thrasher—a former speaker of the Florida House—who was recently appointed president of a major Florida university despite lacking any academic qualifications for the role.”

Supermajority = pseudodemocracy.

2. Charlie Crist, Democrat

Amendment 2 was promoted by a prominent Orlando personal-injury lawyer named John Morgan. He was the face of the campaign. In talks and TV ads Morgan said that his father’s final months had been made bearable by marijuana, and that his brother Tim, a quadriplegic, needs and uses marijuana and should be able to do so legally. John Morgan gave $4 million to a PAC called “United for Care” to push Amendment 2. Much of it went towards getting the measure on the ballot.

The Democrats’ candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, a lawyer employed by Morgan’s firm, emphasized his support for Amendment 2. Crist had been elected governor of Florida as a Republican in 2007. In 2010, aspiring to run for the Senate, he lost to Marco Rubio in the primary and lost again in the general election after filing to run as an Independent.

In 2012 Crist endorsed Barack Obama. When he ran for governor as a Democrat in 2014 Crist’s detractors called him “a chameleon.” His defenders said, “The Republicans have been taken over by the far right, one has to change with the times.”

The link between the Democratic candidate for governor and Amendment 2 undoubtedly alienated many Republicans who might otherwise have voted ‘yes.’

3. Square Strategists

Even last spring, when Amendment 2 looked like a sure winner, savvy Irvin Rosenfeld had misgivings. He had been involved in many medical marijuana campaigns and seen big early leads in the polls go way down when the attack ads commenced.

The Amendment 2 campaign wanted little to do with Rosenfeld’s friend Robert Platshorn, a 70-something pitchman whose “Silver Tour” had been carrying the pro-marijuana message to senior citizens across the state and beyond. Platshorn was unwelcome because he had done time in federal prison for smuggling marijuana into the U.S. in the 1970s. And though he had paid his debt to society (29 years!), and though most people hearing his story find him likable and admirable, the Amendment 2 strategists “did not want Bobby Platshorn associated with the campaign,” says Rosenfeld.

Nor did the campaign make full use of Rosenfeld himself. A stockbroker based in Fort Lauderdale, Rosenfeld, 61, is one of the best known and most persuasive proponents of medical cannabis. “I don’t care that the campaign didn’t use me that much,” he says. “I care that they didn’t use my story enough.”

In 1982, with guidance from Alice O’Leary and Robert Randall (the first “federal patient” to get cannabis from the government), Rosenfeld had convinced the Food and Drug Administration that only marijuana countered the tumorous growths on his bones and enabled him to lead a normal life. Rosenfeld in turn helped other Floridians—glaucoma patient Elvy Musikka, and AIDS patients Barbara and Kenny Jenks—to enter the FDA’s so-called “Compassionate Investigational New Drug” program.

The Amendment 2 strategists “wouldn’t even use the image of a cannabis leaf in any of their materials.”

Rosenfeld requested in vain that the campaign focus on the fact that he and other Floridians had been using marijuana provided by the federal government, safely and beneficially, for many years.

The campaign strategists, according to a reliable source, thought “it was too difficult to explain Irv’s story in a 30-second commercial. Also, the marijuana Irv gets is in the form of joints, and the campaign didn’t want to show anybody smoking. They wouldn’t even use the image of a cannabis leaf in any of their materials.”

Your correspondent is confident that Rosenfeld can tell his story and make the relevant points in 30 seconds.

4. The “medical necessity” alternative

Kenny Jenks was a hemophiliac who had contracted the HIV virus from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. His wife Barbara became ill, too. It was before the advent of protease inhibitors, and the Jenkses were fading fast. When they learned that marijuana restored their appetites, Kenny began growing. He was arrested for cultivation in 1990 and his defense in court was “medical necessity.”

It was to stave off AIDS wasting syndrome and death, he claimed, that he committed the crimes of marijuana cultivation and possession. Jenks was acquitted and a Florida statute was enacted acknowledging a citizen’s right to a “medical necessity” defense.

(Barbara Jenks died in 1992 at age 25, Kenny the following year at age 31. He was the first AIDS patient to get cannabis from the government, and the last. With hundreds of AIDS patients applying to the FDA, the George H.W. Bush Administration closed the “Compassionate Use” program. Rosenfeld and 12 others were “grandfathered in” to avoid the public-relations disaster that would ensue if the government stopped providing the herb to patients likely to die without it.)

Florida’s statute recognizing “medical necessity” would have an impact on the 2014 election after it was rediscovered by attorney Ian Christiansen of Health Law Services, who made it the basis for a campaign to recruit clients. “Medical marijuana is already legal in Florida,” Christian proclaimed to the media and on the law firm’s website.

“A patient with a debilitating medical condition has a right to use cannabis just like any other prescription medication, as long as a physician deems cannabis ‘medically necessary’ and orders its use, pursuant to Fla. Stat. 381.026(d)(3), 456.41, 893.13 (6) (a)...

“Florida Courts have held patients may cultivate their own medicine… Our firm specializes in understanding the intricacies of the application and law of this medicine, and therefore we provide legal guidance to patients, physicians, hospitals, authorized agents, law enforcement, Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Health and more…

“Our firm assists patients in establishing this medical necessity, then work closely with law enforcement to ensure the patients rights and compliance with all applicable law.” Sic.

The prospect of immediate access to legal cannabis drew many desperate people to sign up with Health Law Services. Among them was Moriah Barnhart, 30, mother of a little girl named Dahlia who was afflicted with brain cancer. When John Morgan gave a talk in Jacksonville, Barnhart said she would vote “no” because she intended to grow cannabis for her daughter based on “medical necessity.” Morgan, grandstanding, offered to pay for her daughter’s medicine for the rest of her life. Barnhart said thanks but no thanks—her goal was a political solution for all, not a private one for her kid.

In a debate with Morgan two weeks before the election, Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell said that a doctor could “already prescribe marijuana, and since statute 893.13(6)(a) built on the medical necessity doctrine, a patient can grow it themselves, and under this amendment that will go away.”

The Health Law Services website gleefully posted video of Bell’s pronouncement with the comment, “No on 2 is Yes on Medical Marijuana!”

5. The “low-THC” bill

In February 2014 a bill was introduced in the Florida house of representatives to legalize the sale of oil made from “low-THC cannabis”—defined as plants whose flowers don’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC.

The prime movers had been Holley and Peyton Moseley of Gulf Breeze, parents of an daughter named Rayann, 11, who has a severe form of epilepsy. (Holley Moseley had been a nurse on a ward where Rayann, then a baby, was receiving treatment prior to being sent to a foster home. The Moseleys adopted her.)

After seeing the Sanjay Gupta special on CNN in August 2013, the Moseleys contacted Realm of Caring in Colorado and were advised to push for legislation in their home state that would enable them to get access to Charlotte’s Web.

The Moseleys knew Matt Gaetz, a young state representative whose father, Don Gaetz, was president of the Florida senate. Matt Gaetz drafted HB 843 with input from Realm of Caring.

Hyman informed the legislators and the media that they should stop calling it “the Charlotte’s Web bill,” because there were other CBD-dominant plants from which effective cannabis extracts were being made.

The parallel bill in the state senate, SB 1030, was introduced by Sen. Rob Bradley, who also was getting input from the parent of an epileptic child—Seth Hyman. At the ensuing subcomittee hearings, Hyman informed the legislators and the media that they should stop calling it “the Charlotte’s Web bill,” because there were other CBD-dominant plants from which effective cannabis extracts were being made. He also explained that THC in amounts greater than 0.3% was a crucial ingredient for many children getting benefit from cannabis extracts.

When the house bill was incorporated into SB 1030, the name was changed to “the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act” and the limit of allowable THC was set at 0.8%   Cancer and AIDS were added as qualifying conditions, and Level 2 background checks were required for dispensary proprietors and employees—excluding people like Robert Platshorn, whose felonies involved making marijuana available long before its medical benefits were acknowledged by the government.

The Act passed the House (111 to 7) and the Senate (30-9). The all-important details of production and distribution were left entirely to the Department of Health to devise.

In August the Department of Health issued a “Notice of Proposed Rule” to implement SB 1030. It would allow five nurseries, spread across the state, to grow and distribute low-THC cannabis. Cultivation, processing, and dispensing would have to be done on the same or contiguous property. In other words, the dispensaries would be nurseries, and vice versa.

The proprietors would be chosen by lottery from among applicants who had been in business for 30 consecutive years and were tending at least 400,000 plants. There were 43 such nurseries in the state, and no cost to apply. The lucky winners were supposed to pay a $150,000 application fee (retrospectively), post a $5 million performance bond (supposedly to cover the cost of destroying their crop if their license was revoked or not renewed), and provide “low-THC cannabis” extracts 150 days after being licensed.

SB 1030 also established a “research registry” listing all physician-approved patients. All purchases and health outcomes would be tracked.

Governor Rick Scott had stated emphatically that he would never allow any kind of medical marijuana bill to be enacted in the Sunshine State. But he was convinced by strategists that signing SB 1030 would make his opposition to Amendment 2 seem less inhumane. With a stroke of the pen, Scott transformed his image from arch foe of medical marijuana to pro-CBD centrist.

A cartoon by Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal depicted Scott sitting at his desk with a document that says “Charlotte’s Web Act,” to which he has affixed his signature. A spider has woven “God bless you” on a huge web, and Scott is beaming with self-satisfaction.

“As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer,” Scott said (as if aunts and uncles just might). “Charlotte’s Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life.”

Scott reiterated his opposition to Amendment 2 with similar blither: “I’ve watched drug use; I’ve watched alcoholism. I’ve seen how it affects families; I can’t support that.” The reporters quoting him did not point out that Amendment 2 had nothing to do with alcohol, or that alcoholism declines when cannabis is available as an alternative to booze.

Rick Scott became a multimillionaire running Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain. According to polite Wikipedia, Scott “resigned as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a controversy over the company’s business and Medicare billing practices; the company ultimately admitted to 14 felonies and agreed to pay the federal government over $600 million, which was the largest fraud settlement in US history. Scott was not implicated and no charges were raised against him personally.”

Irvin Rosenfeld is convinced that the passage of the so-called “low-THC” measure was the single biggest factor undermining support for Amendment 2. “It enabled the opposition to say ‘We already have a bill that will take care of the people who really need medical marijuana.’ That became one of their soundbites.”

During one TV debate, Rosenfeld recalls, “the sheriff of Pinellas County kept saying, ‘We don’t need Amendment 2, we have a CDB bill.’ He must have said it four or five times. ‘We have a CDB bill.’” Sic.

Sepulchral, sanctimonious Rick Scott may owe his re-election to that CDB bill, which legalizes the production of low-THC cannabis oil and its sale at five retail outlets.

6. The Casino Magnate’s Millions

“The amount of money poured into the ‘No-on-2’ campaign from out of state by Sheldon Adelson was obscene,” says Pat M., a Gainesville caregiver. Adelson is a Vegas-based casino owner, a great friend of Israel and the Republican Party. He gave more than $5 million to the No-on-2 campaign.

Gainesville Pat says that a few days after the election the Miami Herald ran an exposé about Adelson. “Finally they explained who this guy really is. He gets behind Republican candidates for governor when Indian tribes’ casino licenses are up for renegotiation. Ours are next year.”

Most of the “No-on-2” ads were in the name of the Florida Sheriffs Association. Pat summarizes their messages: “‘Kids can walk into a doctor’s office and get a prescription and go get pot.’ ‘There will be pill mills on every corner.’

“They showed pictures of Venice Beach, [where some potdoc has an office and flyers are distributed by women on roller blades]. They showed a girl with a candy bar in her back pocket and a boy with his arm around her, and said ‘Marijuana will be the new date-rape drug.’”

Adelson also funded ads in which persons in white coats representing the Florida Medical Association said (as summarized by Pat) “There’s no evidence… We don’t want anything that’s not FDA-approved.”

Irv Rosenfeld thinks that the medical association’s opposition was another big factor in the outcome. “It was more than disappointing, it was appalling,” he says. “After all these years of marijuana use in all these states without any observable harm… their opposition was political, not medical.” The No-on-2 campaign manager, Tre´ Evers, wrote a self-congratulatory analysis after the election that the Tampa Bay Times published. “Nearly every elected Sheriff in Florida took to the public forum to educate their constituents on the problems with Amendment 2,” Evers crowed. “Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County in particular became one of the main spokespersons for the opposition. He seemed omnipresent at meetings, debates and press interviews across Florida. Sheriff Gualatieri of Pinellas County debated John Morgan on a statewide NBC telecast while Sheriff Don Eslinger of Seminole County held numerous press conferences in Tallahassee. Likewise, many other Sheriffs visited their local newspapers, spoke to churches and community groups, and elevated the discussion of this important issue.´

The ‘Yes-on-2’ ads seemed few and far between in late October as the Adelson-funded barrage hit the airwaves. “Their ads featured John Morgan talking about his father and his brother,” says Anneliese Clark, the politically active mother of a girl with Dravet syndrome who spent much of 2014 desperately seeking CBD. “The average Floridian can’t identify with a super-successful lawyer who they see on TV all the time advertising his law firm’s success at suing people. There were way more ads for his firm than for Amendment 2.”

“I want my daughter to have medicine from the best producer, not the luckiest.”—Seth Hyman

SB 1030 Implementation stalled

In passing SB1030, the legislature allocated $1 million to Florida universities to study CBD in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy; but they allocated zero to enable the Department of Health to set up the program to grow and dispense. The Department estimated it would need between $750,000 to $1,500,000 to create the “robust regulatory structure” required by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nevertheless, the Department of Health devised an implementation plan for SB 1030, which was made public in August. Four legal challenges were promptly filed by nurseries with various objections. They were consolidated and heard by Administrative Law Judge David Watkins in Tallahassee October 14-15.

Watkins’ conclusions, issued November 14, put the selection of dispensaries on hold. The Department of Health was instructed to correct the plan’s flaws, most basic of which is the lottery mechanism itself, which left the matter to chance rather than the applicants’ merit. Watkins quoted Seth Hyman’s poignant statement, “I want my daughter to have medicine from the best possible source, not the luckiest.”

Watkins also rejected the requirement that cultivation, processing, and dispensing must be done on the same or contiguous property. This will save a lot of driving, because most big nurseries are outside the urban areas where most people live. Watkins sensibly allows plants grown in the country to be sold in the city.

Watkins also rejected Level 2 background screening for employees (as opposed to owners and managers). And he rejected the requirement in the Health Department plan that a dispensary medical director be a physician who does not authorize patients to use low-THC cannabis.

According to a source in Gainesville who requests anonymity, “The arguments against the lottery seemed logical: ‘We don’t want some guy who has a tree farm and doesn’t know anything about cannabis to put his name in a hat and get chosen…’ But that was never going to happen, because the nurseries could not have gotten ready without partners who knew about cannabis. They had all been contacted by big players from California and Colorado who told them, ‘If you win the lottery, we’ll back you, we’ll provide everything you need. For a piece of your business.’”

The Department of Health would have allowed license holders to sell an interest in their business—up to 75%—and to create partnerships shielding them from risk if the federal government declared the Florida program illegal. But the judge specified that each application would have to be in a qualified nursery’s name.

SB 1030 states that the low-THC products it legalizes will have to originate in Florida—but doesn’t address the question of how CBD-dominant seeds and cuttings will come into the nurseries’ possession!

An attorney for the Department of Health, formally queried, replied that the Department didn’t design the program it was directed to implement. Apparently, everyone is supposed to look the other way. Holley Moseley says “It’s like the military with ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Keepin’ on keepin’ on

Amendment 2 did not pass, but on Election Day Floridians expressed support for safe access to medical marijuana by a 58 to 42 margin. “The politicians in Tallahassee took note of that,” says Anneliese Clark.

Clark is now involved with “a group that will draft a bill and lobby. It is a collaboration of non-partisan medical, law enforcement and business people along with parents and patients. We had our first meeting [in late November] and are just in the planning stages.”

Soon after Election Day, Holley and Peyton Moseley hosted a “meet-and-greet” at which the stalled implementation of SB 1030 was discussed. Paige Figi spoke, as did Mrs. Moseley. About 80 people attended. Their children are suffering and the situation is confusing. For example, some people assumed that signing up for the Realm of Caring waiting list automatically put them on the state’s research registry. (Holley Moseley explained otherwise.) No one could give a date when CBD-dominant cannabis extracts will be available in Florida. Six months if all goes well, was one speaker’s guesstimate.

There are 700 people on the RoC Florida waiting list, 90 percent with in-state addresses, others from Alabama, Georgia, “and as far away as New Jersey,” according to Mrs. Moseley.

Now that the dispensaries will be chosen based on the applicants’ qualifications instead of a lottery, Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises have offered their products and services to one nursery. We assume it has an excellent chance of becoming an authorized dispensary. Although the Stanleys are not making money on Charlotte’s Web, their brand has a sterling reputation and they will have post position when the time comes for selling THC-dominant cannabis in Florida.

Paige Figi foresees the day when Realm of Caring will support the use of “CWHO and… other products that are sure to arise and meet our standards of safety, lab testing, efficacy, supply, and price.”

Steve DeAngelo was in Florida in May, and met mothers desperate for access to medical cannabis. Two—Moriah Barnhart and Anneliese Clark—were giving it to their children with the knowledge of the local sheriff. Two—Jacel Delgadillo and Renee Petro—were waiting for state law to change.

The women had found one another through the internet. They attended hearings on SB 1030 and Amendment 2 debates in t-shirts that said “CannaMoms.”

DeAngelo said that if they came to California, Harborside Health Center would provide CBD-rich medicine from plants other than Charlotte’s Web. Delgadillo and Petro could find out if cannabis actually would help their kids—at least in the short-term. And all could test the effects of THC and THCA, too.

The CannaMoms took up the offer and arrived in the East Bay in early November. They were lodged for a week at the Coral Reef Motel in Alameda. (We don’t have Coral Reefs off Alameda, but they do in Florida.)

Harborside staffer Kelly Quirke squired the entourage, first on a visit to the Berkeley office Frank Lucido, MD, for letters of approval, and then to the dispensary for products to try during their stay. This is where your correspondent first met them. A producer from MSNBC was there with a cameraman, and she wanted to get a shot of the moms administering to their children the medicaments that they hadn’t even had time to read the labels on. Diplomatic Kelly Quirke nixed the idea on legal grounds.

Was the trip beneficial?

Back in Florida, Anneliese Clark says, her daughter Christina “was very alert, better posture and very interactive with me and the other children.

“During the first eight days, she had improvements during the day, her nocturnal seizures continued. Changing the dosing a little on day nine resulted in five seizure-free days and nights. The trip back set her back a little. We all got sick with colds which is a trigger for her. One day she’s great one day she’s not… I’ve got to figure out the pattern of what’s going on and what works best.”

Moriah Barnhart reported at Thanksgiving: “Jacel is in the process of preparing to move to California. Upon our return home, Bruno was hospitalized and suffered several grand mal seizures in addition to the hundreds of head drops he suffers regularly. She feels that if she had options and a variety of medications to utilize, she would be able to offset his suffering. She had this in California, saw improvement and felt empowered. Returning home was a harsh reminder that the antiquated legislation in Florida is causing all of us great harm.

“Renee has considered moving to California as well. Branden has seen such great results from cannabis, and has such an improved quality of life. Renee feels that she has greater protection from law and CPS alike in California, and wishes to grant her children the most normal childhood possible, which includes not having to look over her shoulder in fear.

She cannot do without cannabis, nor can she do without family and friends.

As for me, Dahlia has been on different strains of cannabis since last November. [The sheriff knows.] I feel it is within my right under medical necessity to treat my daughter in the most compassionate way possible. We have seen great results in Dahlia’s condition and quality of life. She also deserves to be home with the love of her family and friends. She can not do without cannabis, nor can she do without family and friends. Therefore, it is in her best interest to utilize cannabis at home in Florida. If things do not progress, I, too, may have to consider moving.

“Being in California opened my eyes to the wide array of products available to help Dahlia and other critically ill children. I need and want the freedom we had there. I still hope to see that freedom in my home state.

“Dahlia’s most recent scan showed continued tumor shrinkage, despite the fact that she has been off of chemo for six months. I have no doubt that cannabis has played more than a large role in getting her onto the path of healing.”

Renee Petro’s son Branden was helped most by a spray from Care By Design that was half-CBD, half-THC. He had 14 seizure free days. His mom reports, “For the first time in four years, Branden was able to enjoy going to the mall and feel in control of his emotions. He was happy!” She is recently divorced and is planning a move to California, as is Jacel Delgadillo.

Jacel adds that if she tried to claim “medical necessity” and treated Bruno with cannabis, “Miami is one of the cities I believe would prosecute me first as we don’t even have a sheriff to guarantee I would be protected: I feel safer being in a legal state! I might be making the move as early as mid January as Bruno’s condition has gotten worse. Financially I can’t, and I’m solely depending on SSI, child support and donations [as I] risk being on my own with my two kids. Unfortunately this is what Florida is making us do.”

PS from Anneliese: “I feel like the others—that our state is not providing the structure and safe access that we need to help our children. It is very frustrating. I am not in a position to pick up and move at this time. My only option is to stay and hope things move forward quickly.”

 

Hemp Oil Hustlers

By on October 11, 2014

A Project CBD Special Report on Medical Marijuana Inc., HempMeds & Kannaway

In early 2014, Project CBD assigned a writer to investigate and report on Medical Marijuana Inc., a penny stock umbrella company that markets “hemp oil” products infused with cannabidiol (CBD), a medicinal component of the cannabis plant. Originally we had hoped to shed light on the complex financial machinations of Medical Marijuana Inc., a subject that had been addressed by a few stock market analysts but not by journalists in general interest publications.

Project CBD was poised to publish Aaron Miguel Cantu’s research when we heard complaints from several sources that people were getting sick, in some cases “violently ill,” when they ingested “Real Scientific Hemp Oil,” Medical Marijuana Inc.’s flagship product. We decided to delay the release of our report until we had a chance to look into whether there was any truth to these allegations. Our investigation proceeded in an unanticipated direction, involving analytical lab tests, hemp oil production tours, and a crash course in scientific data regarding toxic solvents, heavy metals, and other contaminants.

We have presented our findings in this report.

Press release  |  Joint statement with CannaVest

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

Project CBD Visits Uruguay

Project CBD goes abroad
By on October 07, 2014

In the Spring of 2014, a Project CBD delegation embarked upon a fact-finding and fact-sharing expedition in Uruguay, the first country to legalize the production, sale, and distribution of marijuana. During our ten-day visit, we met with health professionals, educators, musicians, human rights activists, cannabis growers, and government officials.

Symbols of marijuana were conspicuous in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, where pot-leaf T-shirts were sold on street corners and loudspeakers blared reggae and hip hop. Joints circulated freely at an outdoor rock concert we attended the night after our arrival. Cuatro pesos de propina (Four pesos for a tip), the hot headline act, attracted a diverse, weed-smoking crowd, including many young people from the cantegriles, the slums of Montevideo.

It’s estimated that 14 percent of Uruguayans between 16 and 64 have used marijuana. We sampled some homegrown in Cabu Polonio, a beachside squatters’ settlement on the Atlantic Ocean. But high quality cannabis was hard to find in this beef-exporting nation of 3.3 million people and three times as many cows. Bereft of better sources, many Uruguayans were smoking prensado paraguyo, a compressed, foul-smelling brick of leaves, glue, fesces, and chemicals, smuggled in from Paraguay.

The possession and consumption of small quantities of cannabis had been decriminalized in Uruguay since the 1970s. But cultivation, sale, and distribution remained illegal until December 2013, when this small Latin American country broke ranks from the U.S.-led drug war juggernaut and announced it was pulling the plug on marijuana prohibition. “Someone has to be the first,” said Uruguayan President Jose (“Pepe”) Mujica. “The repressive path has failed.”

That failure is resoundingly evident in Latin America, the recipient of more than $20 billion in U.S. military aid during the last decade, most of it earmarked for the disastrous war on drugs. Plan Columbia, the U.S. scheme to pulverize a cocaine-producing country with an iron fist, fostered the spread of organized crime throughout the region and set the stage for the horrific bloodletting in Mexico, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past seven years. President Mujica became a champion of marijuana legalization “to free future generations from this plague.”

A former Marxist guerrilla fighter who survived 14 years in a military prison, Mujica sees marijuana legalization first and foremost as a human rights issue, an opportunity to opt out of the vicious cycle of violence that has terrorized Latin America. The Broad Front, Uruguay’s leftist governing coalition, views the war on drugs as a form of neocolonialism, a brutal instrument of U.S. imperialism. Ending cannabis prohibition is essentially an anti-imperialist policy.

“Our initial focus is on stopping the drug war, ending the violence and crime. That’s why we favor a legal recreational market. We want to keep otherwise law-abiding citizens away from clandestine arrangements,” explained Augusto Vitale, deputy director of the Uruguayan cabinet ministry in charge of drug policy.

After implementing reforms to regulate the recreational use of cannabis, according to Vitale, the Uruguayan government will focus on harnessing marijuana’s multifarious medical applications.

Uruguay has also been at the forefront of international public health campaigns to restrict tobacco consumption. In 2009, the Broad Front passed a law requiring that cigarette packs be covered 80 percent by health warnings, such as graphic pictures of cancer victims. Uruguay’s willingness to defend its policy in court against tobacco giant Phillip Morris fits in with other progressive social reforms enacted by the Mujica government, including the legalization of same-sex marriage and abortion. In addition, Mujica has sought to remedy income inequality by redistributing wealth and providing free computers for every Uruguayan child. But almost certainly history will remember him as the president who legalized marijuana.

Uruguayan officials insist they aren’t trying to impose their views on other countries, but they maintain they have a sovereign right to forge their own path and explore new approaches to an old problem. Unlike state governments in Colorado and Washington, Uruguay refuses to levy a tax on marijuana sales. It doesn’t seek to profit from a tightly regulated cannabis indistry, preferring instead to keep the price of marijuana as low as possible to undermine black market commerce.

If all goes according to plan, marijuana will be cultivated by government-certified growers and sold at low cost in pharmacies only to registered adults, but not to tourists; production will never exceed local demand. Unlike the Dutch model, which regulates the sale but not the production of cannabis and hashish, the Uruguayan government is in charge of the entire industry—from cultivation to consumption.

Raymond Yan, president of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board, accused Uruguay of having a “pirate attitude” and warned that marijuana legalization would “endanger young people and contribute to the earlier onset of addiction.” But Uruguay’s bold initiative has drawn support from other Latin American leaders who are open to a major shift in hemispheric drug policy.

...and Uruguay Visits Project CBD

Laura Blanco, director of the Association of Cannabis Studies, a nongovernmental organization in Uruguay, discussed her country’s trailblazing drug policies when she visited the United States in May. Blanco spoke at the annual Women’s Visionary Conference in Petaluma and at a private event in the East Bay hosted by activists Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris.

The new law in Uruguay, Blano explained, allows citizens 18 years and older to register with the government to purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis a month for personal use at state-run pharmacies—the cost: a dollar a gram. The law also allows an individual to grow six marijuana plants at home or to join a cannabis club with 15 to 45 members that can collectively grow up to 99 plants. The names of members will remain confidential, she noted.

Blanco’s travel itinerary included meetings at Oaksterdam University to learn about how to launch a cannabis college and a site-visit to Project CBD for a tour de force of cannabis oil extraction equipment, a CBD-rich research grow-op, and an analytical testing lab.

After she returned home, Blanco’s group, the Association of Cannabis Studies, became the first to officially register as a marijuana-growing club. A handful of others in Montevideo and the country’s interior also signed up to grow cannabis on August 28, 2014, the opening day of registration, which was free of charge.

Exactly fifty years ago on the same day, Bob Dylan turned the Beatles on to marijuana in a New York City hotel room.

August 28th—it ought to be a national holiday in Uruguay and the United States.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

 

The CBD-Only Stampede

CBD only stampede
By on March 22, 2014

A version of this article was originally published on the Pediatric Cannabis Therapy website.

Ever since marijuana was banned by the federal government in the 1930s, proponents of prohibition have insisted that cannabis must remain illegal to protect America’s children. “Protecting the children” continues to be the calculated cornerstone of anti-marijuana propaganda, the cynical centerpiece of the war on drugs.

How ironic, then, that today thousands of families in the United States are desperately seeking cannabis remedies to protect their children from deadly diseases. The erstwhile “Assassin of Youth” has become the savior for kids with catastrophic seizure disorders and other life-threatening conditions.

Drawn by the near-miraculous healing power of oil extracted from the marijuana plant, families have been flocking to Colorado and other cannabis-friendly states, where they hope to find a remedy that helps their children, some of whom suffer a hundred seizures a day.

Parents are reporting a dramatic reduction in seizures—often 50 to 90 percent—when their children are given oral extracts rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive cannabis component; these extracts are low in THC, the compound that causes the high marijuana is famous for.

For every family that has uprooted and moved to Colorado, many more have chosen to stay home and lobby local officials in an effort to change state law so they might access an essential medicine. Their poignant pleas are having an impact. Politicians from both parties have been rushing to approve bills that would legalize marijuana for therapeutic purposes in such unlikely places as Kentucky, Georgia,  Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah.

However, there’s a catch: The bills under consideration will only allow the use of CBD-rich oil extracts with hardly any THC. Apparently marijuana is still the evil weed to many lawmakers, but somehow certain parts of the plant are good—and now they’re claiming the good parts aren’t actually marijuana!

According to this political pretzel logic, marijuana gets you high, but CBD-rich marijuana doesn’t get you high; therefore, CBD-rich marijuana is not marijuana.

“This is not medical marijuana. It’s just an oil derived from that plant,” according to Wisconsin GOP state representative John Spiros, a former police officer who voted to approve CBD-only legislation. Gage Froerer, a Utah state legislator, weighed in with similar rhetorical gimmickry about CBD: “It’s not a drug. It’s not medical marijuana.”

During the notorious vote that outlawed cannabis in America in 1937, a befuddled U.S. Congressman asked House Majority Leader Sam Rayburn from Texas, “What is this bill about?” Rayburn replied, “It has something to do with a thing called marijuana. I think it is a narcotic of some kind.” Still clueless more than seven decades later, influential state lawmakers are claiming that the CBD-only legislation they favor has something to do with a thing called “not marijuana.”

Promoted by impassioned parents, do-gooders, and entrepreneurs with a financial interest in seeing such laws pass, CBD-only legislation has triggered a serious controversy within the medical marijuana community. Some see it as a key first step, a viable tactic for cracking open the prohibitionist door in states governed by retro pols and religious zealots.

Others are less sanguine about the prospect of CBD-only laws. “CBD-only legalization is like being half pregnant. It doesn’t make sense,” says Garyn Angel, founder of Magical Butter, a homemaker’s device for extracting cannabis oil. Angel, who is not enamored of efforts to legalize only low THC concentrates, has provided financial assistance to poor families so they could join the CBD children’s crusade to Colorado.

“We need many kinds of cannabis, not just the CBD-dominant strains,” says Arizona Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who recently testified before state lawmakers in Kentucky and Minnesota about medical marijuana’s potential for helping veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nearly four years earlier, Sisley had gotten FDA approval to investigate whether medical marijuana, including a CBD-rich strain, could be an effective treatment for PTSD. But her research was blocked by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), which would not allow access to cannabis for therapeutic studies. [Breaking news: Last week, NIDA finally relented and approved Sisley’s PTSD study, but approval from the DEA is still required.]

Apparently no physicians in Minnesota or Kentucky were willing to speak on the record in favor of medicinal cannabis, so Dr. Sisley flew in from Arizona at the behest of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has lobbied for legalizing medical marijuana in several states.

Two competing bills are being considered by Minnesota lawmakers—a broader, more inclusive initiative supported by the MPP and a CBD-only measure that would restrict patient access to non-smokable cannabis oil extracts with negligible amounts of THC. Both bills made it past the first House committee, but no less than nine other committees have to sign off on medical marijuana legislation before it reaches the Minnesota House floor for a full vote.

Polls show huge support for medical marijuana in Minnesota (where selling cannabis to a teenager was once punishable by up to 40 years in prison). Many Minnesota residents are using marijuana, albeit illegally, to assuage chronic pain, stimulate appetite, quell seizures, and offset the awful side effects of chemotherapy. But elected officials in the North Star state seem more attuned to law enforcement opinion, which opposes medical marijuana in its natural, leafy form, than public opinion, which is overwhelmingly pro-choice with respect to cannabis therapeutics.

Sisley could tell which way the wind was blowing as hitherto anti-marijuana politicians lined up to jump on board the CBD-only bandwagon. “I’m running into this blockade everywhere I go,” said Sisley. “CBD-oil bills are popping up in nearly every state that is examining medical marijuana legislation.  And it’s making it much more difficult to pass comprehensive legislation that can address a wide range of conditions. I tried to explain to the legislators that a CBD-only law would benefit a narrow segment of the patient population. The vast majority of patients need access to a broader spectrum of whole plant marijuana remedies. Even pediatric patients need more options.”

The case of Jayden David, a child stricken with Dravet’s Syndrome, is instructive. In 2011, five-year-old Jayden, who had been on 22 pills per day, was given a CBD-infused tincture, which his father obtained from the Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland. The CBD remedy worked wonders. For the next several months the boy with intractable epilepsy was largely seizure-free. Featured on national television, the story of Jayden’s transformation was the first broadcast that drew attention to the remarkable medicinal properties of cannabidiol.

But the story doesn’t end there. In due course, it became evident to Jason David, Jayden’s devoted father, that sometimes his son responded better when more THC was added to the cannabis solution. If Jayden lived in a state with a CBD-only law rather than cutting edge California, he’d be out of luck, unable to legally access the medicine that keeps him alive. Many pediatric epilepsy patients would not be well served by CBD-only legislation. Nor would cancer patients, chronic pain suffers, and people with Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders.

Scientific research has established that CBD and THC interact synergistically and potentiate each other’s therapeutic effects. And marijuana contains several hundred other compounds, including flavonoids, terpenes, and dozens of minor cannabinoids in addition to CBD and THC. Each of these compounds has particular healing attributes, but when combined they create what scientists refer to as an “entourage effect,” so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant exceeds the sum of its parts. Therein lies the basic fallacy of the CBD-only position.

When we launched Project CBD four years ago, I thought the serendipitous rediscovery of CBD-rich cannabis would be the nail in the coffin of marijuana prohibition. I didn’t anticipate that CBD-only laws would serve as a pretext to extend marijuana prohibition—under the guise, once again, of protecting the children.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

FDA Grants “Orphan Drug” Status to GW’s Epidolex

Epidolex GW Pharmaceutical
By on March 03, 2014

Published in full on BeyondTHC.com.

GW Pharmaceuticals’ CBD plant extract Epidiolex has been granted “Orphan Drug” status by the Food and Drug Administration, setting the stage for Phase 2 clinical trials later this year. The Realm of Caring Foundation, a Colorado-based non-profit, is also making CBD-rich plant extracts available to the parents of pediatric epilepsy patients. And other entities have begun producing and distributing CBD medicaments. GW will not have a monopoly—but it will have the edge with physicians who would rather prescribe an FDA-approved medication than recommend an extract available at the local dispensary.

Here’s GW’s press release, datelined London, Feb. 28, 2014:

GW Pharmaceuticals Receives Orphan Drug Designation by FDA for Epidiolex® in the Treatment of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

GW Pharmaceuticals plc (AIM:GWP) (Nasdaq:GWPH) (“GW”) announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation for Epidiolex®, GW’s product candidate that contains plant-derived Cannabidiol (CBD) as its active ingredient, for use in treating children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), a rare and severe form of childhood-onset epilepsy. Epidiolex is an oral liquid formulation of a highly purified extract of CBD, a non-psychoactive molecule from the cannabis plant.

Read full article

Dr. Gupta’s Traveling Medicine Show

Dr Gupta on weed
By on February 28, 2014

Originally published on BeyondTHC.com.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and medical advisor to the masses, doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. On August 11 Gupta narrated a “Special Report” on CNN that provided dramatic examples of Cannabis exerting beneficial effects. In the days before it aired he made media appearances to apologize for his role in having “systematically misled” the American people about marijuana.

Who can change opinions, prejudices, too—cover them in science in an interview? The Sanjayman! The Sanjayman can! The Sanjayman can ’cause his head is on straight and the world’s gone wrong.

In the carefully produced show, entitled “Weed,” Gupta interviewed more than a dozen people at locations from Colorado to Israel. He opens with a visit to young parents named Matt and Paige Figi, whose 5-year-old daughter Charlotte is afflicted with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. The parents are totally straight, never used marijuana, he’s an officer in the Army’s Special Forces, they live near Fort Carson.

The Figis recount how Charlotte’s condition worsened as every conventional treatment failed. She was having hundreds of seizures per day and the doctors were considering inducing a coma to save her life. Dad, deployed to Afghanistan, researched epilepsy treatments on the web and came across the “WeedWars” segment in which a father reports to Andrew DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center that the CBD-rich herbal extract is working, his son’s seizures have been dramatically reduced!

The Figis buy $800 worth of CBD-rich Cannabis at a dispensary and a friend helps them extract the medicine for under-the-tongue application to Charlotte. Her seizures go down to one-a-week and she begins recovering!

As the parents are running out of medicine they are introduced to the Stanley Brothers, six clean-cut young men who look as if their parents gave them a ranch—or six ranches. Gupta tells us the Stanleys grow 600 lbs a year for dispensaries they own. Track with Gupta and Josh Stanley to a large greenhouse full of small cannabis plants beginning to flower. Josh points to one and says, “There’s nothing like this in the world. This plant is 21 percent CBD and less than 1 percent THC.”

Gupta says, admiringly, “It took years of crossbreeding plants to get to this point.” Josh explains, “Instead of breeding up the THC, we’ve bred down the THC and bred up the CBD, and people said, ‘You’re crazy.’ You know, ‘Who is going to smoke that?’”

Who will take a greenhouse, wrap it in a sigh—Soak it in the sun and make a CBD pie? The Sanjayman! The Sanjayman can. The Sanjayman can ’cause he mixes it with facts and makes the truth taste good.

But the truth Gupta shared with his CNN audience—Josh Stanley modestly accepting credit for introducing CBD to America—was soaked in artifical sweetener. It was as if California had never happened. Did we just dream up David Lampach and Addison DeMoura trying to get the hang of gas chromatography in the fall of 2008 so they could launch a lab called SteepHill? The daredevils were testing samples of herb brought in by growers for Harborside, whose visionary honcho, Steve DeAngelo, was underwriting their venture. Nobody grasped the significance of the first CBD-rich sample they tested. It had been brought in by an activist, Karen B., who didn’t really know from which plant that “Women’s Collective Stinky Purple” came from… But by the spring of 2009 all concerned were on the lookout for CBD-rich strains, and SteepHill lab was finding that about one in 700 samples contained more than 4% CBD. Martin Lee and I would contact the growers (some of whom were disappointed that their plants were low in THC) and assure them that there would be great demand for CBD in due course. Of course “In due course” doesn’t pay the rent, which is due in the now.

Nor did Gupta mention the pharmaceutical entrepreneur who was truly first to grasp the medical and the political significance of CBD: Geoffrey Guy, MD, founder of G.W. Pharmaceuticals, the British company that got Home Office approval in 1998 to produce Cannabis-based extracts containing equal parts CBD and THC. GW’s progress, reported by your correspondent for more than a decade, has helped guide U.S. physicians, horticulturists and extract producers. The story of how CBD-rich medicine became available has been told in O’Shaughnessy’s, and the ongoing story is being reported at ProjectCBD.org. The unsung heroes include Rick Pfrommer, Rachael Smajdza, and Caroline Francese of the Harborside purchasing department, and the enlightened capitalists at the Harborside helm who didn’t try to monopolize the rare strains. And of course the meticulous plant breeders and the old-timers who saved seeds from plants that exerted unusual effects.

Gupta and his producers should have known that Cannabis plants with high CBD-to-THC ratios have been bred in California—including 25:1 CBD-t0-THC plants dubbed “Oracle” and “AC/DC.” According to Allan Frankel, MD, lab tests show that the 25:1 plants have almost identical terpenoid contents, meaning they have almost identical lineage and effects. “Oracle has zero psychoactivity,” says Frankel. “It’s great for initial therapy for seizure disorders and for patients very sensitive to THC. It is very calming and great for anxiety or racing minds. Very little ‘cerebral changes,’ if any, are noted.” California’s Statewide Collective makes Oracle available as extracts or vaporizer pens. “The CBD-rich vape is great for asthma and other pulmonary conditions, Frankel adds.

And now back to our show. Gupta quickly recounts the history of U.S. marijuana prohibition, pegging Harry Anslinger, Commisioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, as the prime villain. Carl Hart, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University, says, “This guy saw how he could increase the budget of his department by having this mission, going after marijuana.” No arguing with that—and no time to discuss Anslinger’s ruling-class backers.

Gupta makes clear the connection between marijuana prohibition by the U.S. government and the actual suffering of U.S. citizens. He says, “By 1970 it was a schedule one controlled substance. The government was saying it had no medicinal value and had a high potential for abuse. All reasons why the Figis stayed away from marijuana. Until this…” Cut to the little girl having a seizure. “The seizures start during the first year of life and are unstoppable. Difficult to control and very damaging,” Gupta says. The Figis tried every conventional medication to no avail. Gupta: “Her body was so frail that any seizure could kill her. With no traditional treatment left to try and the clock ticking away, her parents decided to try marijuana.”

Paige explains that in Colorado you need two doctors to approve use by a child. “We were the first young child and they said ‘no.’ Everyone said ‘no, no, no, no.’” Until the Figis found Alan Shackleford, MD, a physician Gupta describes as “Harvard-trained” and “among a handful of doctors in Colorado who give prescriptions for medical marijuana.” During Shackleford’s initial examination, Charlotte had two seizures.

“There were no more options for her,” Shackleford tells Gupta. “Everything had been tried, except cannabis.” There is an implication—probably a result of the editing and not the view of Shackleford—that it’s appropriate for doctors to prescribe and patients to fail on every pharmaceutical on the market before cannabis becomes an option. This is a protocol that doctors in the Society of Cannabis Clinicians have objected to strongly. See Cannabis as a First-Line Treatment for Childhood Mental Disorders by Tod Mikuriya, MD.

Gupta misspeaks when he says, “Marijuana is made up of two ingredients—THC, that’s the psychoactive part that makes you high, and CBD, also called cannibadiol. It is the CBD that scientists think modulates electrical and chemical activity to help quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes seizures.”

Marijuana is made up of hundreds of compounds. Its active ingredients include terpenoids, flavonoids, and many cannabinoids other than THC and CBD. The effectiveness of CBD may be enhanced by the presence of other compounds found in the plant.

The second patient interviewed by Gupta looks like he was sent by Central Casting in response to a request for a 19-year old stoner/skateboarder. Gupta says, “Meet 19-year-old Chaz Moore. He uses many different strains of marijuana. Many of them high in CBD to treat his rare disorder of the diaphragm.”

Chaz lifts up his shirt to show a two-inch wide band of muscle contracting and releasing. He speaks in staccato words instead of smooth sentences. “My abs will like lock up…”

”It’s called myoclonus diaphragmatic flutter,” says Gupta. The condition becomes painful if it lasts for 15 minutes or more. After convulsing for seven minutes, Chaz draws on a glass pipe. The relief comes in less than a minute, and it’s clearly visible: the muscle that had been fluttering is relaxed and normal. Also, his speech comes in flowing sentences.

Chaz reminds Gupta that when his condition was being treated with pharmaceuticals, he would have been too loaded to take part in an interview. Chaz’s father Sean says, “I’ve watched friends of mine die from taking the same drugs that he took… His quality of life now is a thousand times better than what it was when he was on the pharmaceuticals.”

GUPTA: Sean is not scared of marijuana and neither is Chaz.

CHAZ: This right here, I don’t get sick off of it. I can’t overdose.

GUPTA: And Chaz is right about that. While there are fatal accidental prescription medicine overdoses every 19 minutes in this country, there are virtually no reports of fatal marijuana overdoses.

The Chaz Moore episode is as powerful a consciousness-raiser, in its own way, as the baby with epilepsy. It implicitly reminds viewers that the seemingly able-bodied young man emerging from the dispensary with a baseball cap on backwards might have unseen problems. And it explicitly contrasts the serious adverse effects of pharmaceuticals and the benign side effects of marijuana.

Fairness and Balance

After showing that cannabis abates the terrible symptoms of Charlotte and Chaz, Gupta asks “But what was it doing to their brains?” Dr. Julie Holland, author of “The Pot Book,” lists possible adverse effects: “You can you get paranoid, you can have disorganized thinking. You get disoriented. It can be uncomfortable. It can lead to panic attacks or anxiety attacks in people.”

Dr. Carl Hart, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia, says the effects he has observed include “disruption in memory, disruptions in inhibitory control. They will become slower at cognitive functioning… These effects are temporary, but they’re pretty pronounced.” Gupta asks about the effect on driving. Hart says, “You may prematurely hit your brakes. You may prematurely hit the gas pedal. A wide range of things. You may make a turn without looking more carefully.”

Just when you think they’re heading for a simplistic definition of impairment based on cannabinoid levels in the blood, Gupta and Hart swerve adroitly. Gupta says that the part of the brain most affected by marijuana is the prefrontal cortex.

HART: It’s very important for planning, thinking, coordinating your behaviors. There are tons of marijuana receptors in this region and we think that marijuana, particularly in the novice, can disrupt all of those behaviors… Turns out when you test people who have a lot of experience with cannabis, you don’t see many disruptions, but if you test people who have sort of limited history with cannabis, you can see some clear pronounced disruptions.

GUPTA: Look at this experiment done by CNN affiliate KIRO in Washington state. Subjects smoke marijuana and then drove. One was a daily medical marijuana smoker and another an infrequent weekend smoker… The more the novice user smoked, the more trouble behind the wheel. (Footage of the novice subject driving with a supervisor who says “Watch yourself. Watch yourself.”)

GUPTA: But interestingly, the habitual smoker didn’t have as much trouble… And that’s something I witnessed firsthand driving around with 19-year-old Chaz Moore. The day that I spent with him, he had been smoking all day long. (over footage of them in a car with Chaz at the wheel) Do you feel impaired at all?

Chaz: No, I don’t. I feel normal.

This is an extremely important reality—heavy users tend to be unimpaired by their daily dose—and Gupta demonstrates it vividly.

Reefer Madness

Gupta travels to McLean’s Hospital, New England headquarters of the Psychiatric Establishment (a wholly owned subsidiary of Big PhRMA), to interview Dr. Staci Gruber, who can’t help batting her eyes at the handsome neurosurgeon. Staci is a PhD, not a medical doctor, and, as director of McLean’s Brain Imaging Center, an expert in the re-emerging field of Phrenology. (Every neuroimaging study on cannabis that claimed some anatomic change has later been refuted. The neuropsychological data show changes in heavy smokers, but with return to normal after 30 days of abstinence.)

GUPTA: She’s using high-tech imaging to see what happens in the brain when you smoke.

GRUBER: What we see is a very big difference in people who begin to smoke prior to the age of 16 and those who smoke after age 16. What we call “early” versus “later onset.”

GUPTA: Gruber’s brain scans show that the white matter—those are the high waves that help the brain communicate from one point to another—are impaired in those who start smoking early.

GRUBER: Maybe that there’s underlying white-matter-conductivity differences.

GUPTA: Those white matter highways are just more disrupted in people who start smoking early.

GRUBER: That’s what we see.

GUPTA: Perhaps not surprising given what we know about the young developing brain.

NYU’s Julie Holland reappears, saying “That’s a very delicate time in brain development, and that’s not a good time to be taking any drugs.”

GUPTA: Preliminary research shows that early-onset smokers are slower at tasks, have lower IQ’s later in life, higher risk of strokes, and increased incidence of psychotic disorders. And while these studies are not conclusive, some scientists are still concerned because in 2012, 35 percent of high school seniors lit up, and that could mean a generation of kids with damaged brains. And many fear something else.

Cut to a teenager identified in the CNN transcript as “Joel Vargas, Addicted to Marijuana.” Joel tells Gupta, “I never really told myself I need help.” We wonder who told him. Probably dear old mom and dad.

GUPTA: A generation of marijuana addicts. When we come back, the truth and the science behind what’s being called a growing epidemic.

That’s a very bold claim, and Gupta does not make good. Dr. Holland defines the problem encountered by some: “There are people who compulsively smoke, who want to stop smoking, but they can’t stop smoking.” This is true—but it conflates those who want to quit because of external pressure and those truly in the grip of an inner compulsion that they consider destructive. Gupta defines both subsets as “dependent,” and lumps them together with heroin and cocaine addicts! ”In fact,” he says authoritatively, “nine percent of marijuana users will become dependent. Now that’s not as high as other drugs, like heroin—23 percent of users become addicted—or 17 percent with cocaine, 15 percent with alcohol. But it’s still approximately one out of every 11 marijuana smokers.” This deceptive riff is reenforced by an accompanying bar graph.

There’s nothing like a specific number to make an assertion seem like a fact. The “9-percent-become-addicted” line has been put out by the National Institute on Drug Abuse since the 1990s. It is supposedly substantiated by the number of people in marijuana treatment programs. But very few people go into treatment because they think they are impaired by marijuana. Most go because they’ve been forced to by a judge, an employer, a school, or a parent. For many so-called marijuana addicts who use the herb for pain or insomnia and go to work unimpaired, the real “problem” is the metabolite level detected in their urine. For depressed teenagers the real problem is the situation and/or environment they find so unbearable that they want to alter their consciousness every day.

Comes now (says the CNN transcript) “Dr. Christian Thurstone, Addiction Expert,” a painfully thin man who looks like he might have compulsivity issues around jogging. He tells Gupta flat-out, “There is no longer any scientific debate that marijuana is not just psychologically addictive, but also physically addictive.” Gupta does not say “How dare you speak in the name of science? There is no rigor whatsoever to your specialty.” Instead there’s a very brief shot of Thurstone with a teenager named Joel V., his Exhibit A.

THURSTONE (to Joel, as if he really cared): So give me an update. How are you doing?

GUPTA (in the foreground): Dr. Christian Thurstone runs one of Colorado’s largest youth substance abuse treatment clinics. The number of marijuana addicts he treats has tripled in the last three years alone.

THURSTONE (to Gupta in another setting): Literally I cried about it. Marijuana is number one on their list of priorities. They have dropped out of life… The prefrontal cortex, which helps people think ahead, control their impulses, that’s not fully developed until age 24. That explains why adolescents are much more vulnerable.

Sanity is restored somewhat when sensible Dr. Holland tells Gupta, “You know, for somebody like Joel, going into rehab is really about learning new behaviors more than it is about sort of treating the physiological dependence or tolerance or withdrawal issues.”

According to Gupta, “When you smoke pot, the feel-good chemicals that make up marijuana called cannibinoids, remember them? They cause your brain to stop producing its own natural cannibinoids. When you stop smoking, you have no feel-good cannibinoids of your own. Until your body kickstarts production, you feel lousy, so many people smoke again to feel better.” This is doubly inaccurate. Not every cannabinoid is a “feel-good” compound. And intake of exogenous THC (by smoking a joint, say) results in some down-regulation of the body’s THC equivalent, but nothing close to total depletion. See John McPartland’s thorough explanation in the Winter/Spring 2013 O’Shaughnessy’s.

Gupta travels to Oxford, Mississippi, to meet our nation’s only legal grower, Mahmoud ElSohly, PHD, who has named one of his several business operations “the Marijuana Potency Project.” ElSohly has a lucrative contract from the DEA to test samples of confiscated weed and another from NIDA to grow marijuana for those few U.S, researchers whose proposals for clinical trials get approved. NIDAwanna also goes to four surviving patients who got grandfathered in when the federal “compassionate” investigational new drug program begun under Jimmy Carter was effectively ended by George H.W. Bush in 1991.

We see ElSohly unlocking the enormously thick door of a vault that contains his aging stash. (Some of it has been in this vault for more than five years.) Gupta sniffs a baggy that ElSohly tells him is 8% THC. Then ElSohly hands him a fresh bud that they both obviously admire:

ELSOHLY: This is 36 percent THC. You can smell it. It has a good aromatic smell.

GUPTA: How much does this worry you—36 percent THC?

ELSOHLY: Very, very dangerous material. If someone that is not experienced in marijuana smoking takes some of this, they’re going to go into the negative effects of the high—the amount of THC, the psychosis, the irritation, irritability, the paranoia, and all of this.

ElSohly is a scientist, and he should speak precisely. On occasion a novice may find strong marijuana unpleasant, but to say that “psychosis” is something that is “going to” happen to a novice who smokes marijuana is fear-mongering worthy of Harry Anslinger himself.

Gupta says that in 1972 the average potency of marijuana sent by DEA for analysis “was less than 1 percent THC. Now it’s nearly 13 percent.” ElSohly implies that these numbers describe an individual’s use pattern: “They’re starting out with a half a percent and 1 percent, and they get a good high, and then as they continue to use that, it doesn’t give them the same high anymore, so they see—you know, smoking more or high potency material.”

This image of tolerance building up, leading to ever increased craving, is just a bunch of hooey. People smoking marijuana for recreation and certain medical conditions (including pain and depression) want herb with high THC levels. Thus growers want to plant and breeders develop high THC chemovars. It’s obvious why the potency levels have built up over the years, and it’s a good thing if your concern is bronchial irritation. High THC levels enable people to use less to achieve the desired effect. High-THC marijuana is not more addictive, it’s more potent.

Gupta didn’t call ElSohly on his duplicitous comment. In fact, he sort of endorsed it by saying “It happened to Joel Vargas. After a couple of years of smoking daily, Joel eventually ended up in rehab where he faced mild withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia, nausea… Joel has been clean now for six months.” We don’t learn if Joel is skateboarding again, or happier.

The tightly scripted show included a visit to Israel, where the Ministry of Health seems to be supportive of—or perhaps even co-opting—the medical marijuana industry. Gupta says, “Here they have pioneered marijuana research. They were the first to isolate THC and CBD decades ago. And now the country’s ministry licensed 10,000 patients to use marijuana medicinally and has approved more than a dozen studies to treat illnesses like PTSD, pain, Crohn’s Disease, even cancer.”

We visit a nursing home where residents are using marijuana for pain, loss of appetite, Parkinson’s Disease, and other conditions. A 78-year old man with Parkinson’s demonstrates how a toke will stop his hand from trembling. The loss of his wife engulfed him in grief, but with marijuana, he tells Gupta, “You fly. You dream.”

Gupta wonders what’s preventing the obviously needed research in the U.S.. Julie Holland tells him, “The FDA has been great at approving studies. But the National Institute of Drug Abuse has been really stonewalling and blocking any studies looking at therapeutic effects of cannabis because that’s not their mandate. Their mandate is to look at the harms of drug use… What’s nice about Israel is that the government is helping the research to happen.”

NIDA director Nora Volkow (who happens to be Leon Trotsky’s great granddaughter) won’t take the rap. ”It’s very easy to blame an organization,” she tells Gupta. “If you would come up with a grant that says, ‘OK, this is going to be a treatment for drug addiction,’ then it would go to us. But if it’s cancer, it goes to the Cancer Institute. If it is schizophrenia, it goes to NIMH, so the institutes have a mission with certain diseases.”

The show ends back in Colorado, with Matt and Paige Figi sharing their appreciation of what CBD-rich marijuana has done for their Charlotte, and footage of the little girl walking, forming words, having her nails painted by mom, playing with her sister, riding on a pony! Her dad says, “I literally see Charlotte’s brain making connections that haven’t been made in years. It’s almost seeming to build her brain where before it seemed broken.”

Gupta says it straight to the camera, to America: “I can tell you, it was remarkable to see her progress. In the three months since we first met her, we saw a change. She was now talking more.”

The Stanleys have named their CBD-rich strain “Charlotte’s Web.” Gupta says, “More than 41 children are using Charlotte’s Web here in Colorado. All of them are reporting significant seizure reduction, and there are dozens more on a wait list, hoping, praying that a plant could change their lives. Just like it did for Charlotte.”

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