March 2018

Jeff Sessions to crack down on legalized marijuana, ending Obama-era policy

Attorney general to end lenient enforcement of federal marijuana laws, days after new legalization measure took effect in California

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is rescinding an Obama-era policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, creating new confusion about enforcement and use just three days after a new legalization law went into effect in California.

Instead of the previous policy of lenient federal enforcement begun under former attorney general Eric Holder in 2013, Sessions new stance will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it. Guidance issued on Thursday depicted the change as a return to the rule of law.

It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission, Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions plan drew immediate strong objection from the Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Gardner said in a tweet that the justice department has trampled on the will of the voters in Colorado and other states. He said the action would contradict what Sessions had told him before the attorney general was confirmed and that he was prepared to take all steps necessary to fight the step including holding up the confirmation of justice department nominees.

The move by Trumps attorney general is sure to add to confusion about whether its OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where the drug is legal. It comes just after shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the worlds largest market for legal recreational marijuana.

This instability will only push consumer dollars away from these state-sanctioned businesses and back into the hands of criminal elements. With nearly two-thirds of Americans, including an outright majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents supporting marijuana legalization, this is not just bad policy, but awful politics and the Trump administration should brace itself for the public backlash it will no doubt generate, said Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Altieri also noted that the announcement throws the jobs of more than 150,000 Americans employed in the budding legal marijuana industry into limbo.

For politicians who purport to believe in small government and states rights, this is a wildly incongruous move, said Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

While Sessions has been mostly been carrying out a justice department agenda that follows Trumps top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to marijuana policy reflect his own long-held concerns. Trumps personal views on marijuana remain largely unknown.

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A budtender assists a customer at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Sessions,though,has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and has blamed it for spikes in violence, had been expected to ramp up enforcement. His personal crusade against the substance has been well documented throughout his political career, including his over a decade in the Senate. He once famously quipped that he admired the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana.

The Obama administration in 2013 announced it would not stand in the way of states that legalized marijuana, so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and keep it out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. Sessions is rescinding that memo, written by the then deputy attorney general, James M Cole, which had cleared up some of the uncertainty about how the federal government would respond as states began allowing sales for recreational and medical purposes.

The marijuana business has since become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some government programs. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and Californias sales alone are projected to bring in $1bn annually in tax revenue within several years.

Sessions and some law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado blame legalization for a number of problems, including drug traffickers who have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to illegally grow and ship the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more. The decision was a win for marijuana opponents who had been urging Sessions to take action.

There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but its also the beginning of the story and not the end, said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. This is a victory. Its going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.

Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals who object to the human costs of a war on pot with conservatives who see it as a states rights issue. Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress have been seeking ways to protect and promote legal pot businesses.

Marijuana advocates quickly condemned Sessions move as a return to outdated drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities.

It also cannot go unnoted that this policy will have a disproportionate and disastrous impact on people of color, McCurdy said.

Although black people and white people use marijuana at similar rates, black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

The War on Marijuana, like the War on Drugs, has failed by almost every measure with the exception of successfully destroying communities of color, McCurdy added. Todays decision furthers entrenches the country in racially biased, fiscally irresponsible, and morally wrong drug policy.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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The green gold rush: Could Africa be on the verge of a weed race?

(CNN)Several African governments are considering tapping a lucrative natural resource.

More than 10,000 tons of cannabis are produced on the continent each year, according to a UN survey, which advocates believe could be worth billions of dollars in a rapidly expanding global market for legal weed.
African governments have not yet followed the trend of legalization seen in Europe and the Americas. But Lesotho’s recent announcement of the continent’s first legal license to grow marijuana is part of a wider shift toward more liberal policies.
    From Morocco to South Africa, there is growing interest in cashing in on a valuable crop. But in each case there are unique challenges to face.

    Lesotho

    The tiny, landlocked nation has few natural resources. But Lesotho is a giant of the marijuana trade.
    “Cannabis is grown almost everywhere in the country,” a UNESCO report found, noting the industry is a leading contributor to the economy in a country plagued by poverty. Much of this comes through illicit trade with Lesotho’s larger, richer neighbor, South Africa.
    The government has now signaled its intentions to bring the business out of the shadows by awarding the first license for cultivation and sale to South African alternative medicine company Verve Dynamics.
    However, no formal steps have been taken to legalize or regulate the vast network of existing farmers and traders.

    Morocco

    The North African state is famous for its hashish and is second only to Afghanistan as a producer of the substance, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
    The trade employs at least 800,000 people, according to Bloomberg, and is worth $10 billion a year in sales.
    Such dizzying numbers have underpinned a growing movement for legalization. In 2014, an opposition party in the Moroccan parliament with close ties to the monarchy proposed a bill to legalize marijuana production for medical and industrial use.
    But the bill failed, and the movement suffered a further setback with the resignation of leading advocate Ilyas El Omari. There has also been opposition to legalization from conservative religious groups, and even cannabis farmers who are concerned their crop might lose value.

    Malawi

    Malawi is well known for the prevalence and quality of marijuana production within its borders, including the sought after “Malawi Gold” strain.
    The government is now cultivating hemp on a trial basis, ahead of potential legalization of the non-psychoactive cannabis strain for industrial uses such as fabric and food products. This represents a major development after a lengthy battle with drug control groups and religious leaders that fiercely opposed any softening of policy.
    Both advocates and critics of legalizing hemp have suggested that marijuana could be next, a longstanding demand of the country’s Rastafarian minority, which claims that smoking ‘chamba’ is integral to their culture.

    Ghana

    Ghanaians are heavy consumers of marijuana, according to the UNODC, which is prohibited but widely tolerated.
    A pro-legalization campaign has been gathering momentum in recent years, with support from the former head of the Narcotics Control Board. The movement recently received another boost when the executive director of the Ghana Standards Authority suggested that state-led cultivation and export of marijuana could generate valuable income.
    But a vociferous backlash from government officials and mental health experts showed this will not be easily achieved. The influential Christian Council of Ghana has also spoken out against legalization, warning this would “destroy the future of our young people.”

    Swaziland

    The continent’s last absolute monarchy is plagued by poverty, but boasts an abundance of marijuana.
    Prominent public figures have suggested using the cannabis crop to boost the economy, including Swaziland’s housing and development minister, while the national commissioner of police has called for a study.
    The Swazi House of Assembly has now appointed a committee to explore the possibility of legalization, according to recent reports.
    However, similar proposals have been discussed for several years without moving forward, and police continue to make regular arrests for cultivation of marijuana.

    South Africa

    One of the continent’s largest economies is also among its leading markets for marijuana, or “dagga” as it is locally known. South Africa produces around 2,500 tons a year, according to a UN report.
    Several legal battles are ongoing over the future of the drug in South Africa. The Dagga Party won a landmark ruling this year to permit smoking in the home on privacy grounds, without changing the legal status of the herb.
    The so-called “dagga couple” Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are going further in seeking the right to grow and consume marijuana, which could establish a far-reaching precedent.
    The South African government has already published guidelines for medical marijuana, paving the way for legal licenses.
    But medical authorities have warned that potential health risks may not be well understood, and public access will likely depend on the outcomes of clinical trials.

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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    This Extract Is Driving A Hemp Gold Rush. But Is It Legal?

    Customers are snapping up a cannabis extract derived from hemp. But conflicting federal laws and competition from more regulated sectors are casting a shadow over the market.

    LONGMONT, Colo. — In a few months, Dani Fontaine Billings will plant 80 acres of hemp at her farm here, out behind a clapboard farmhouse with views of the Rocky Mountains.

    Some of the plants will grow tall, like bamboo, and yield grain and fiber for textiles and other industrial products. Others will look and smell like marijuana and yield a cannabis compound. The profitability of that compound, Billings said, is drawing many farmers and would-be farmers to the hemp industry.

    Few people had heard of cannabidiol, known as CBD, before a 2013 CNN documentary, “Weed,” that featured its healing powers. Now entrepreneurs put CBD into pills, tinctures, candies, body lotions and dog treats, and customers use it to ease health problems from anxiety and sore muscles to seizures.

    Billings and her mother, Tracee Box, own and operate Nature’s Root, a hemp spa tucked beside the American Legion in this suburb north of Denver. As many things in the spa as possible are made of hemp, from the bathrobes to the massage oil. But cannabidiol-infused products are among the bestsellers, said the 31-year-old Billings. “We have a very large clientele that just wants to use the CBD on their bodies.”

    CBD can be derived from marijuana or hemp — both are varieties of the cannabis plant — but the marijuana version is only available in states that have legalized the drug. The hemp version, however, is easy to find online and in stores all over the country, including in spas and grocery stores. And because the hemp version isn’t psychoactive, it could attract a bigger market: people who want to feel better without getting high.

    But for growers and sellers there’s a problem: The federal government is divided on whether the hemp CBD extract is legal. The 2014 federal farm bill says cannabis becomes hemp — and legal to grow and market — when its psychoactive potential drops below a certain level. But the 1970 Controlled Substances Act says only certain parts of the cannabis plant can be legally sold as hemp. That definition excludes the cannabis flowers, which are usually harvested for CBD.

    This month, a federal court in San Francisco will hear arguments in a lawsuit — brought by Hemp Industries Association, a trade group, and two hemp companies — that seeks to overturn the DEA classification.

    The current hemp CBD industry also faces long-term threats beyond questions about legality. As more states legalize marijuana, the industry may face more competition from marijuana-derived cannabidiol. And pharmaceutical companies are getting in on the action. Two cannabidiol drugs are moving through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process, and one of them — an anti-seizure medication — could hit the market this year.

    Sophie Quinton, The Pew Charitable Trusts
    Peggie Baker, left, and Jamie Mawhorter from the Little Flower Colorado Hemp Company at the Indo Expo in Denver. A popular hemp extract, cannabidiol is widely sold but may be illegal.

    The New Hemp Boom

    Hemp was historically grown to make rope, sailcloth and textiles. But it fell out of favor as a cash crop in the 20th century, as states and the federal government banned marijuana, and cotton and synthetic materials became cheaper to produce.

    Hemp’s resurgence began four years ago when Congress passed the farm legislation, defining “industrial hemp” as cannabis with a concentration of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, of no more than 0.3 percent by weight. The law says states can allow universities and agriculture departments to grow hemp in order to study the plant’s growth, cultivation and marketing.

    “That word marketing — it was the crack in the door,” says Brent Burchett, director of plant marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. In Kentucky, where officials have argued that the only way to conduct market research for a product is to allow it to be bought and sold, private hemp farmers get a license from the state and share their experience growing, processing or selling the plant.

    Two-thirds of states have enacted legislation to allow hemp to be grown under the farm bill, according to Vote Hemp, a nonprofit that advocates for hemp. Of those states, nineteen had active hemp programs last year. The vast majority of them — including Kentucky and Colorado — allowed commercial sales.

    Farms in Colorado and Kentucky generated about half the nation’s hemp crop last year, according to industry estimates. Burchett expects 6,000 acres to be planted in Kentucky this year, up from 30 in 2014. Initially, most farmers grew for hemp fiber. Now, more than half is planted for CBD, he said.

    In Colorado, where close to 10,000 acres of hemp was planted last year, the harvest, which had long been mostly used for CBD, has shifted to other uses recently, according to Duane Sinning, the assistant director of plant industry at the state Department of Agriculture. More farmers are choosing to grow hemp for its grain, he said. Hemp seeds, also known as hemp heads, are gaining prominence as a “superfood” like chia or flax seeds.

    But at a recent cannabis trade show in Denver that featured marijuana and hemp companies, most entrepreneurs were selling wares infused with CBD.

    Along the “Hemp Hallway,” passersby could reach out for free samples of everything from caramels to pills packaged to look like medicine. Peggie Baker, of the Little Flower Colorado Hemp Company, stood behind a cloth-draped table decorated with succulents and poured samples of sticky, tangy CBD tincture onto a spoon.

    Her target customers are interested in the product’s health benefits but would never walk into a marijuana dispensary, she said — that’s why the company has a pretty logo and retail partnerships with a few spas and a grocery store. “I want to get to places where women and grandmas would walk in,” she said.

    Under FDA rules, companies selling cannabidiol extract can’t market their products as cures for specific diseases because none are approved as medical drugs. The FDA says companies can’t call CBD products supplements, either.

    Yet many companies either flout those rules or walk right up to the line. At the Denver expo, many sellers had a story to tell about a miracle improvement, such as a client whose Parkinson’s tremors subsided or a wife whose muscle pain eased. Some, like Baker, simply said they got into the business because they wanted to help people around them who were sick.

    Relaxing in an armchair in the lobby of his daughter’s spa the day before the trade show, Bill Billings — who runs a second business with her, advising newcomers to the hemp industry — said that since he started using CBD, the swelling and pain in his arthritic knee have subsided. Two poodles trotting around the spa lobby that morning were also CBD users. They’re given the extract to ease their arthritis and anxiety, Dani Billings said.

    Industry analysts say the CBD market will only grow. The Hemp Business Journal, a Denver-based organization that publishes industry estimates, predicts that within two years marijuana, hemp and pharmaceuticals will split a combined CBD market of more than $1 billion. Other estimates for the hemp-derived market are much higher.

    A Legal Gray Area

    Some legal experts caution, however, that buying and selling hemp-derived cannabidiol might be illegal.

    That’s because of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which says cannabis is marijuana — except for the stalks, fiber and oil of the plant traditionally used by industry. That means cannabis flowers, the source for CBD extract, qualify as marijuana no matter the THC level of the plant.

    The Drug Enforcement Administration leaned on the latter definition when, in 2016, it classified all cannabinoid extracts as dangerous drugs. Local law enforcement agents have raided CBD sellers in North Dakota and Iowa, and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill concluded last year that it’s illegal to sell cannabidiol extracts there. Indiana law does permit patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy to use the substance, Hill said in his legal opinion.

    Daniel Shortt, a Seattle-based attorney at the law firm Harris Bricken who works with cannabis industry clients, said hemp CBD products occupy a gray area.

    “The thorny question is whether these CBD products derived from industrial hemp can be legally sold and distributed online,” he said. Some major retailers won’t sell CBD, others will. “A lot of it comes down to what level of risk businesses are willing to take.”

    Bob Hoban, a Denver-based lawyer whose firm represents the hemp companies suing the DEA, said Congress has for the past three years cleared the way for hemp products to move across state lines by adding language to spending bills that prevent the DEA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture from interfering with state hemp programs.

    Hemp CBD’s potential legal troubles don’t end there. The FDA also has sent many businesses warnings chastising them for selling unapproved drugs, making unfounded health claims — such as that their product shrinks tumors — and in some cases selling products that don’t contain cannabidiol at all.

    Seeking to distance hemp from marijuana, some hemp companies have chosen to expand in places that don’t allow marijuana cultivation.

    AgTech Scientific recently established a hemp product development center in Kentucky partly for that reason, said Mike French, the company’s president. He said the overlap between cannabis industries in other states can make banks reluctant to serve hemp businesses.

    In Colorado, many cannabis entrepreneurs dabble in both varieties of the plant. Billings and her mom, for instance, owned a medical marijuana edibles company before selling it in 2012 and switching to hemp.

    The marijuana industry was “toxic,” Billings said — she just didn’t like the culture. Her family’s hemp empire, which began with a 2.5 acre harvest, keeps on expanding. Next up: two spas opening next month in Jamaica.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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    Smoked pot and want to enlist? Army issuing more waivers

    Smoked pot? Want to go to war?

    No problem.

    As more states lessen or eliminate marijuana penalties, the Army is granting hundreds of waivers to enlist people who used the drug in their youth — as long as they realize they can’t do so again in the military.

    The number of waivers granted by the active-duty Army for marijuana use jumped to more than 500 this year from 191 in 2016. Three years ago, no such waivers were granted. The big increase is just one way officials are dealing with orders to expand the Army’s size.

    “Provided they understand that they cannot do that when they serve in the military, I will waive that all day long,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Snow, head of the Army’s recruiting command.

    The marijuana use exclusions represent about one-quarter of the total misconduct waivers the Army granted in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. They accounted for much of the 50 percent increase overall in recruits who needed a waiver for some type of misconduct.

    Snow said the figures probably will rise further as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana.

    Eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia have fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults’ recreational use. An additional 13 states have decriminalized it, meaning possession of small amounts is considered the equivalent of a traffic citation or a low-end misdemeanor with no chance of jail. Twenty-nine states, along with Puerto Rico, Guam and Washington, D.C., allow the use of medical marijuana.

    Army leaders have faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks amid worries in Congress and elsewhere about a decline in quality among new enlistees.

    Army data show more than 8,000 recruits received waivers in 2017, compared with about 6,700 last year. Most waivers concerned physical or mental health.

    Almost 2 percent of the recruits were considered “category four,” meaning they scored 31 or less, out of 99, on the aptitude test. Just over a half-percent were in that category in 2016.

    In total, the Army enlisted almost 69,000 recruits this year, close to 6,000 more than last year.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Snow said he went to his Army leadership early this year to ask if he could bring in more of the category four recruits to meet higher enlistment goals. He said he promised that the Army would stay well below a 4 percent limit on the group allowed by the Pentagon.

    Recruits who score lower than 31 on the test must meet specific criteria for the job they are requesting. There is no leeway on previous pot smoking for them. They also can’t require a health or conduct waiver.

    The Army’s top officer, Gen. Mark Milley, told reporters during a recent briefing that the service is not reducing standards.

    The increases in the category four enlistees, however, are fueling concerns the Army could repeat mistakes made during the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars more than a decade ago, when it hurriedly added soldiers to the ranks to meet deployment needs. At the time, the Army brought more recruits in with criminal records and misconduct waivers. As the years passed, discipline problems and other behavioral issues increased as well.

    Milley and Snow insist that won’t happen again.

    “Quality matters more than quantity. If you make the numbers, great, awesome. But do not break the standards,” Milley said. “Standards have to be upheld, period. So if we come in at less than the ideal number, but we’ve maintained the standards, that’s success.”

    The Army’s argument, however, can be a bit misleading. The military services routinely enlist fewer recruits with waivers or lower scores than allowed under Defense Department guidelines. So while the Army increased the number of former drug users or recruits with lower scores than in previous years, the service still stayed below the maximum levels authorized by the Pentagon. And those recruits must get through boot camp, thus meeting minimum standards for joining the military.

    Officials can thus argue they haven’t lowered the standards even if they have arguably enlisted more candidates of lower quality.

    Snow acknowledged the challenge in meeting the growing enlistment goals. In the current fiscal year, the Army must recruit 80,000 new men and women.

    “This mission is going to be a significant challenge for the command,” said Snow, who wants fewer than 2 percent of the new recruits to be category four. “The possibility does exist that the numbers of marijuana waivers and category fours could increase. I hope not, but it’s too early to tell right now.”

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

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    Colorado sold a whole bunch of weed this year

    Weed
    Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Colorado’s cannabis enthusiasts are celebrating after a milestone was announced on Monday.

    In the first 10 months of 2016, the state sold more than $1 billion of recreational and medical cannabis and cannabis-related products, according to data released by the state’s Department of Revenue. That is a monstrous amount of weed.

    The record number is up from 2015’s total annual marijuana revenue of $996 million.

    Industry attorney Vincente Sederberg told the Cannabistthat he believes sales will cross $1.3 billion in 2016.

    “We think well see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year and so the economic impact of this industry if were using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Groups recent report, which is totally reasonable it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.

    While Colorado was the first state to legalize cannabis, it may soon lose its top spot in terms of revenue. California recently legalized marijuana for recreational use and is expected to make major profits once it sets up its retail shops. Florida also legalized cannabis for medical use and, according to Forbes, it’s projected to rake in $1.6 billion by 2020, thanks to its large population of seniors with chronic pain and illness.

    Welcome to the United States of Weed, our new cash crop.

    BONUS: Trump is president, but at least you can get high in four more states

    Read more: http://mashable.com/

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    Only one-third of marijuana extracts accurately labeled, researchers say

    (CNN)Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. But the law is not quite as black and white regarding marijuana extracts such as cannabidiol. CBD is one of the active ingredients in cannabis, increasingly thought to offer wide-ranging health benefits, with few side effects and little risk of addiction or abuse.

    “More and more evidence is coming out that CBD can be helpful for a variety of conditions, from anxiety to inflammation to seizures and epilepsy,” said Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.
    No surprise, dozens of companies are jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, peddling these products to consumers who have high hopes that they will help treat myriad ailments, from chronic pain to PTSD.
      Even though medical marijuana is legal in more than half of US states, it remains illegal under federal law. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate derivatives of the plant, including CBD extracts.
      Bonn-Miller believed that a “systematic evaluation” of the products on the market was needed so consumers would know exactly what they were buying. Today, “It’s the Wild West,” he said.
      For a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Bonn-Miller and his team bought 84 commercially available CBD products on the internet and had them chemically analyzed by an independent lab.
      The researchers found that only 31% of the products tested contained the precise amount of CBD advertised on the label (within the acceptable margin of error), while 26% contained less CBD than the label indicated and 43% contained more.
      Accuracy of labeling, it turned out, was also associated with product type. About half of the CBD extract oils were labeled inaccurately. Nearly 90% of the vaporization liquids were labeled inaccurately. Tinctures (alcoholic extracts) were roughly equally likely to be over-, under- or accurately labeled.

        The quick hit history of medical marijuana

      “Was I shocked? No,” Bonn-Miller said. “Was I disappointed? Yeah. It just got me thinking, we need oversight of this industry. … (It’s) one thing on the recreational side, but here we’re talking about something that people are using almost exclusively medicinally. You don’t get high off of CBD.”
      That’s what made another finding from the study stand out: “Concentration of unlabeled cannabinoids was generally low; however, THC was detected in 18 of the 84 samples tested,” according to the paper.
      THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, has its own medical applications but, unlike CBD, is psychoactive and can cause a “high.”
      Unknowingly ingesting THC, Bonn-Miller said, could result in side effects such as trouble sleeping and cognitive impairment. It could also have unintended consequences, such as positive drug tests.
      “As things stand now, the supplement industry overall is not regulated,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. “You don’t always know what you’re getting, how much you’re getting or even if the active ingredients are in there at all. With medical marijuana, it is almost the opposite situation at the federal level. It is highly regulated.”
      Bonn-Miller said increased regulation is exactly the kind of change he hopes his study will initiate.
      “If the FDA regulated this industry, we would be way better off,” he said. “They’re good at regulating things. When you go and buy a prescription at a pharmacy, you know what you’re getting. … (It’s the) same thing for food. When you get a pack of Doritos or a Hershey bar, you know what it is.”
      Perhaps in a sign of what’s to come, last week the FDA issued warning letters to four companies that the agency said are “illegally selling products (derived from marijuana) online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes.”

      See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

      Until these products are officially regulated, it’s buyer beware.
      Before purchasing any pot pills, potions or lotions, first check the laws where you live. Then, make sure you’re ordering from a reputable dealer. Don’t be fooled by bogus offers or sham celebrity endorsements.
      Unless you’re fully confident in the ingredients of the product, Bonn-Miller suggests following the adage “start low, go slow” — referring to dosage. Of course, your best bet is to always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any medications or supplements, including CBD.

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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      Hippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis

      The state that is the worlds sixth biggest economy will legalise cannabis on New Years Day and expects a boom time for jobs and investment

      While Arctic conditions gripped Americas north-east, balmy sunshine bathed Los Angeles last week but that was not the only reason denizens of the Venice boardwalk were feeling mellow. An astringent, earthy aroma infused the Pacific zephyrs wafting through the buskers, joggers, skateboarders, tourists and panhandlers.

      Weed is part of the culture here, said Oni Farley, 30, perched on a sandy mound, watching life go by. Its part of the LA/California scene, the laid-back vibe. He ignored a police patrol car that inched through the throng. Ive blazed in front of cops and they dont say anything. To be honest, most of the time Im so high I dont notice them.

      Pot wasnt hiding. In multiple different ways it was on display.

      Addicted to weed, anything green helps, said a scrawled sign tilted against the backpack of Alexander Harth, 36, a dusty member of the boardwalks homeless population.

      On the pavement, Marc Patsiner hawked wooden ornaments etched with Californian symbols: sunglasses, palm trees and marijuana leaves. Its pretty bohemian out here. People associate us with the leaf.

      A vape shop offered glass pipes and other pot paraphernalia. T-shirt stores peddled images of Barack Obama smoking a joint alongside other herb-themed garments saying best buds and just hit it.

      On Monday, California, the USs most populous state, and the worlds sixth biggest economy, will officially hit it by legalising cannabis.

      Think Amsterdam, but sunnier and vaster a watershed event for the legalisation movement. Overnight a shadow industry worth billions of dollars annually will emerge into the light, taking its place alongside agriculture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and other sectors that are regulated and taxed.

      It will answer to the newly created Bureau of Cannabis Control bureaucratic confirmation that a day many activists did not dare dream of has indeed come to pass.

      A product pilloried in the 1936 film Reefer Madness will become culturally normalised and economically integrated, said Philip Wolf, an entrepreneur who runs a cannabis wedding company and a firm that pairs pot with gourmet food. Its going to help destigmatise the plant. Theres going to be a lot of people making money and people will want to tax those dollars. This is going to spread. California is a trend-setting state.

      California legalised pot for medicinal purposes in 1996, ushering in a web of dispensaries, spin-off businesses and creeping mainstream acceptance. That culminated in voters last year approving proposition 64, a ballot initiative which legalised pot sales for recreation. History will mark the date it came into effect: 1 January 2018.

      It is expected to unleash profound changes across the state. The Salinas Valley, an agricultural zone south of San Francisco nicknamed Americas salad bowl, has already earned a new moniker: Americas cannabis bucket. Silicon Valley investors and other moneyed folk are hoping to mint fortunes by developing technology to cultivate, transport, store and sell weed. Entrepreneurs are devising pot-related products and services. Financiers are exploring ways to fold the revenue estimated at $7bn per annum by 2020 into corporate banking.

      Customers
      Customers at MedMen, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. Use of the drug to ease pain and disease has already been decriminalised in California. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

      California is not the trailblazer. Colorado grabbed that mantle in January 2014 when it became the first jurisdiction in the world beating Washington state and Uruguay by months to legalise recreational cannabis sales. California is one of 29 US states where pot is legal for medical or recreational use. With medical certificates you can criss-cross the country getting legally stoned.

      But cultural, political and economic heft makes California a landmark in the global legalisation campaign. This is the state that incubated the political careers of Richard Nixon, who launched the war on drugs in 1971, and Ronald Reagan, who continued hardline prohibition policies under his wife Nancys slogan just say no.

      Californias path to yes wound through Venice, a gritty beachside haven for beat poets, artists and musicians long before hippies wore flowers on their way to San Francisco. The Doors, among others, kept the counterculture torch lit in Venice: here they wrote Light My Fire, Moonlight Drive and Break on Through. A giant mural of a shirtless Jim Morrison still peers down from a wall. It was in Venice that generations of Angelenos and tourists toked illicit spliffs. They still do, though it is now a gentrifying tech enclave.

      When California legalised pot for medicinal purposes many cities and neighbourhoods refused to issue licenses for pot dispensaries. In Venice they popped up like toast, as did clinics where for a fee ranging from around $20 to $40 doctors issued pot recommendation letters to ostensible patients. Some were genuine, with ailments and pain alleviated by the herb. Many just wanted to get high. Pretending you have an affliction just to smoke, thats ridiculous, said Farley, the boardwalk observer. Having served in the navy, he claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I dont, but thats what I said.

      The California Alternative Caregivers dispensary set up shop in 2005 on Lincoln Boulevard, on the second floor of a maze of little shops and offices. It was by design, upstairs, all the way to the back. We didnt advertise, said the manager, Jim Harrison, 46. Pot, medicinal or not, still needed to be discreet. If asked about his profession Harrison would say he was a healthcare professional.

      The sky failed to fall in on Venice, or other areas with dispensaries, and little by little pot became more mainstream, even respectable. Harrison, who wears a white coat and calls his patrons patients, is proud that his dispensarys protocols, such as sealing and labelling bags and containers, have been replicated in the new state regulations for recreational pot.

      Full legalisation feels historic, he said. Its pretty amazing. The cats out of the bag. His dispensary will create a new space for recreation customers and keep a separate room for patients. Tax on medicinal pot is lower so dispensaries expect that market segment to dwindle but not disappear.

      The new era may begin with a whimper. State authorities have given counties and cities authority and responsibility to govern the new industry. The result is a patchwork. Some places, such as Kern county, are still banning all commercial pot activity. LA and San Francisco only recently approved local regulations so it could be weeks or months before newly licensed pot shops start sprouting. Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Diego have licensed operators ready to open on Monday.

      Golden
      Golden State Greens budtender Olivia Vugrin (right), serves a customer in San Diego, California. Dozens of shops in the state will be selling marijuana for recreational use from tomorrow. Photograph: Elliot Spagat/AP

      Donald Trumps administration casts a shadow because pot remains illegal under federal law. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has compared the herb to heroin and threatened a crackdown. Fearful of federal prosecution, banks are shunning pot businesses, leaving the industry stuck with mounds of cash which must be transported under armed guard.

      Venices bohemians helped pave the way to Californias big experiment but it is another California, that of boardrooms and city halls, which stands to gain.

      Based on Colorados experience politicians across the Golden State are expecting tax windfalls. Labour unions are hoping to recruit tens of thousands of workers to cultivate and sell pot.

      Wealthy investors are snapping up land in Salinas and other cultivation areas with a view to mass production. Others are forming pot-focused business accelerators and management firms. Start-ups are devising new apps, products and services.

      Corporate expansion felt a world away from the patch of sand that Harth, the Venice panhandler, called home. Despite the sunshine drawing big crowds to the boardwalk he stuffed his sign Addicted to weed, anything green helps into his backpack. The dollars werent coming.

      Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

      adminHippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis
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      Men are calling this gynecologist to try to get medical marijuana

      Weed, dude.
      Image: Shutterstock / Atomazul

      Getting medical cannabis in some states is harder than others. Apparently it’s so difficult in Pennsylvania that dudes are calling up an OB-GYN in an attempt at getting their hands on the stick icky. 

      After some local press revealed that Dr. Liang Bartkowiak of Altoona, Pennsylvania was licensed to prescribe medical marijuana, her office became inundated with phone calls from potential patients looking to book an appointment. The problem? Bartkowiak works at a gynecologist’s office, which treats women exclusively, and most of the phone calls were from men, the Alatoona Mirror reports

      “I was shocked,” Bartkowiak, told the Mirror. “We’re fielding phone calls from male patients who want to schedule appointments.”

      While states like California operate relatively relaxed medical marijuana laws, allowing patients to access the plant with symptoms such as migraines, anxiety, and insomnia, the state of Pennsylvania has much stricter laws, and patients must have a “serious medical condition,” such as Epilepsy, cancer, and severe chronic or intractable pain.

      Because of this, and due to the fact that the program is still quite new, only a number of doctors are allowed to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. Bartkowiak told the Mirror that she sought certification because she treats women with endometriosis and severe pain from surgeries. 

      With the opiate epidemic in full force, doctors like Bartkowiak are seeking alternative medicines in order to help treat pain.

      While providing access to medical marijuana is a big step for Pennsylvania, the state is playing it quite safe by banning the use of smokable flower, following in the footsteps of states like New York. So it’s likely those dudes looking for medical cannabis wouldn’t be able to get access to the pot they were expecting, even if they did qualify.

      Read more: http://mashable.com/

      adminMen are calling this gynecologist to try to get medical marijuana
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      Sessions just made the opioid war harder to win

      (CNN)On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the federal policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. While controversial for many reasons, this move is first and foremost a significant step backward in our country’s fight against opioid addiction.

      Maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to come to Logan County, West Virginia, where I grew up. Maybe he needs to visit nearby Huntington, West Virginia, a town of nearly 49,000 that’s been dubbed the overdose capital of America. A town where opioid- and heroin-related crime has spiked to such levels that the National Guard is now backing up local law enforcement efforts.
      Maybe if he were to open the door to a public restroom and find someone overdosed on the floor, as have residents of Huntington and other West Virginia communities, then Sessions would rethink his disastrous decision to bring down the heavy hand of the federal government on states whose citizens and legislatures have opted to legalize medical cannabis.
        Sessions’ decision takes away one of the few effective tools we have for getting people off of opioids, off of heroin, bringing peace back to our streets and making our neighborhoods great again.
        In 2016 alone, drug overdoses killed nearly as many Americans as the total amount who died in the Vietnam War, according to a report from the Police Executive Research Forum.
        As a retired soldier, I know that if any person or nation killed that many Americans, we would pull up our bootstraps and go to war with them. How then can an administration which has rightfully declared opioid addiction a national emergency, strip us of our ability to fight?
        Medical cannabis can save lives in a country where opioids continue to take them. It offers patients an alternative to addictive opioids. It also helps combat withdrawal symptoms and could give those struggling with addiction a way to detox without feeling as though they are dying. It could be an effective way to help those who have fallen prey to addiction to rebuild their lives.
        Last year, as a freshman state senator, I sponsored legislation to legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia with the hopes that it would help our state combat opioid dependence. I’m a Democrat in a legislature where Republicans have a super-majority, but we were able to get this bill passed and signed by the governor in April 2017. This rare show of bipartisanship didn’t happen because we’re all singing Kumbaya and getting along. It happened because the devastation of addiction is so obvious where we live that my colleagues could not in good conscience deny our citizens a chance to escape this scourge.

          Will new Justice Dept. guidance affect legal pot?

        When our bill was signed into law, I felt hopeful. We still don’t have nearly enough treatment facilities or nearly enough funding to deal with the overwhelming addiction in West Virginia. But at least medical cannabis could be a fresh line of attack and give the state a better chance at restoring our families and rebuilding our communities.
        Sessions’ attack on cannabis patients cynically hurts the very people who so enthusiastically sent this administration to Washington, the ones Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia came together to try to protect.
        So I have some friendly advice for Jeff Sessions from the front lines of the addiction crisis. If he’s interested in fighting a war on drugs, then maybe he should look toward Congress, lobbyists and drug distributors. According to a joint report by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, a former DEA agent says all three played a role in fueling the spread of the opioid crisis.

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        Maybe he should find out why pharmaceutical companies thought nothing of shipping 9 million pain pills into Kermit, a tiny town of just 392 people in my congressional district. Maybe he should take a look at the politicians who took big contributions from these same drug makers and then turned the other cheek as the pills flooded in and our towns turned into war zones. Because I can promise you that the true drug problem is not sitting in dispensaries in Colorado.
        I have watched as my home state struggles to reverse the crippling effects of opioid addiction and I will not sit quiet while Sessions threatens our efforts to overcome it. He thinks that cannabis is a gateway drug. I agree. It is a gateway to a life free of opioid addiction.

        Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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        Ron Paul: Jeff Sessions should be fired over marijuana decision

        (CNN)Ron Paul, the former GOP congressman and onetime presidential candidate, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down Saturday after he moved this week to rescind the Obama-era policy of restricting federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where the drug is legal.

        Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-two states also allow some form of medical marijuana, and 15 allow a lesser medical marijuana extract.
        Paul told CNN’s Michael Smerconish that Americans should have a choice on marijuana use, and he called Sessions’ actions “unconstitutional.”
          “He represents something that is so un-American, as far as I’m concerned,” the Texas libertarian said.
          “The war on drugs, to me, is a war on liberty. I think that we overly concentrate on the issue of the drug itself, and I concentrate on the issue of freedom of choice, on doing things that are of high risk,” he said. “And we permit high risk all the time. … Generally, we allow people to eat what they want, and that is very risky. But we do overly concentrate on what people put into their bodies.”
          Paul called the war on drugs a “totally illegal system.”
          “Just because you legalize something doesn’t mean everyone’s going to do it, and then if you look at the consequences, of the war? Why don’t the people just look and read and study Prohibition? … (a) total failure. And the war on drugs is every bit as bad and worse,” he said.
          “People should have the right or responsibility of dealing with what is dangerous,” Paul insisted. “Once you get into this thing about government is going to protect us against ourselves, there’s no protection of liberty.”
          However, he said, he didn’t expect Sessions to be successful.
          “I predict that Sessions is not going to be victorious on this,” Paul told Smerconish.
          “And unfortunately, it’s for reasons that I don’t get excited about. It’s because the states want to collect all of those taxes (on marijuana), so it becomes this tax issue,” he said.

          Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

          adminRon Paul: Jeff Sessions should be fired over marijuana decision
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