August 2018

Bet money on yourself with Proveit, the 1-vs-1 trivia app

Pick a category, wager a few dollars and double your money in 60 seconds if you’re smarter and faster than your opponent. Proveit offers a fresh take on trivia and game show apps by letting you win or lose cash on quick 10-question, multiple choice quizzes. Sick of waiting to battle a million people on HQ for a chance at a fraction of the jackpot? Play one-on-one anytime you want or enter into scheduled tournaments with $1,000 or more in prize money, while Proveit takes around 10 percent to 15 percent of the stakes.

“I’d play Jeopardy all the time with my family and wondered ‘why can’t I do this for money?’ ” says co-founder Prem Thomas.

Remarkably, it’s all legal. The Proveit team spent two years getting approved as “skill-based gaming” that exempts it from some laws that have hindered fantasy sports betting apps. And for those at risk of addiction, Proveit offers players and their loved ones a way to cut them off.

The scrappy Florida-based startup has raised $2.3 million so far. With fun games and a snackable format, Proveit lets you enjoy the thrill of betting at a moment’s notice. That could make it a favorite amongst players and investors in a world of mobile games without consequences.

“I could spend $50 for a three-hour experience in a movie theater, or I could spend $2 to enter a Proveit Movies tournament that gives me the opportunity to compete for several thousand dollars in prize money,” says co-founder Nathan Lehoux. “That could pay for a lot of movies tickets!”

Proving it as outsiders

St. Petersburg, Fla. isn’t exactly known as an innovation hub. But outside Tampa Bay, far from the distractions, copycatting and astronomical rent of Silicon Valley, the founders of Proveit built something different. “What if people could play trivia for money just like fantasy sports?” Thomas asked his friend Lehoux.

That’s the same pitch that got me interested when Lehoux tracked me down at TechCrunch’s SXSW party earlier this year. Lehoux is a jolly, outgoing fella who became interested in startups while managing some angel investments for a family office. Thomas had worked in banking and health before starting a yoga-inspired sandals brand. Neither had computer science backgrounds, and they’d raised just a $300,000 seed round from childhood friend Hilt Tatum who’d co-founded beleaguered real money gambling site Absolute Poker.

Yet when he Lehoux thrust the Proveit app into my hand, even on a clogged mobile network at SXSW, it ran smoothly and I immediately felt the adrenaline rush of matching wits for money. They’d initially outsourced development to an NYC firm that burned much of their initial $300,000 seed funding without delivering. Luckily, the Ukrainian they’d hired to help review that shop’s code helped them spin up a whole team there that built an impressive v1 of Proveit.

Meanwhile, the founders worked with a gaming lawyer to secure approvals in 33 states including California, New York, and Texas. “This is a highly regulated and highly controversial space due to all the negative press that fantasy sports drummed up,” says Lehoux. “We talked to 100 banks and processors before finding one who’d work with us.”

Proveit founders (from left): Nathan Lehoux, Prem Thomas

Proveit was finally legal for the three-fourths of the U.S. population, and had a regulatory moat to deter competitors. To raise launch capital, the duo tapped their Florida connections to find John Morgan, a high-profile lawyer and medical marijuana advocate, who footed a $2 million angel round. A team of grad students in Tampa Bay was assembled to concoct the trivia questions, while a third-party AI company assists with weeding out fraud.

Proveit launched early this year, but beyond a SXSW promotion, it has stayed under the radar as it tinkers with tournaments and retention tactics. The app has now reached 80,000 registered users, 6,000 multi-deposit hardcore loyalists and has paid out $750,000 total. But watching HQ trivia climb to more than 1 million players per game has proven a bigger market for Proveit.

Quiz for cash

“We’re actually fans of HQ. We play. We think they’ve revolutionized the game show,” Lehoux tells me. “What we want to do is provide something very different. With HQ, you can’t pick your category. You can’t pick the time you want to play. We want to offer a much more customized experience.”

To play Proveit, you download its iOS-only app and fund your account with a buy-in of $20 to $100, earning more bonus cash with bigger packages (no minors allowed). Then you play a practice round to get the hang of it — something HQ sorely lacks. Once you’re ready, you pick from a list of game categories, each with a fixed wager of about $1 to $5 to play (choose your own bet is in the works). You can test your knowledge of superheroes, the ’90s, quotes, current events, rock ‘n roll, Seinfeld, tech and a rotating selection of other topics.

In each Proveit game you get 10 questions, 1 at a time, with up to 15 seconds to answer each. Most games are head-to-head, with options to be matched with a stranger, or a friend via phone contacts. You score more for quick answers, discouraging cheating via Google, and get penalized for errors. At the end, your score is tallied up and compared to your opponent, with the winner keeping both player’s wagers minus Proveit’s cut. In a minute or so, you could lose $3 or win $5.28. Afterwards you can demand a rematch, go double-or-nothing, head back to the category list or cash out if you have more than $20.

The speed element creates intense, white-knuckled urgency. You can get every question right and still lose if your opponent is faster. So instead of second-guessing until locking in your choice just before the buzzer like on HQ, where one error knocks you out, you race to convert your instincts into answers on Proveit. The near instant gratification of a win or humiliation of a defeat nudge you to play again rather than having to wait for tomorrow’s game.

Proveit will have to compete with free apps like Trivia Crack, prize games like student loan repayer Givling and virtual currency-based Fleetwit, and the juggernaut HQ.

“The large tournaments are the big draw,” Lehoux believes. Instead of playing one-on-one, you can register and ante up for a scheduled tournament where you compete in a single round against hundreds of players for a grand prize. Right now, the players with the top 20 percent of scores win at least their entry fee back or more, with a few geniuses collecting the cash of the rest of the losers.

Just like how DraftKings and FanDuel built their user base with big jackpot tournaments, Proveit hopes to do the same… then get people playing little one-on-one games in-between as they wait for their coffee or commute home from work.

Gaming or gambling?

Thankfully, Proveit understands just how addictive it can be. The startup offers a “self-exclusion” option. “If you feel that you need to take greater control of your life as it relates to skill-gaming,” users can email it to say they shouldn’t play any more, and it will freeze or close their account. Family members and others can also request you be frozen if you share a bank account, they’re your dependant, they’re obligated for your debts or you owe unpaid child support.

“We want Proveit to be a fun, intelligent entertainment option for our players. It’s impossible for us to know who might have an issue with real-money gaming,” Lehoux tells me. “Every responsible real-money game provides this type of option for its users.

That isn’t necessarily enough to thwart addiction, because dopamine can turn people into dopes. Just because the outcome is determined by your answers rather than someone else’s touchdown pass doesn’t change that.

Skill-based betting from home could be much more ripe for abuse than having to drag yourself to a casino, while giving people an excuse that they’re not gambling on chance. Zynga’s titles like Farmville have been turning people into micro-transaction zombies for a decade, and you can’t even win money from them. Simultaneously, sharks could study up on a category and let Proveit’s random matching deliver them willing rookies to strip cash from all day. “This is actually one of the few forms of entertainment that rewards players financially for using their brain,” Lehoux defends.

With so much content to consume and consequence-free games to play, there’s an edgy appeal to the danger of Proveit and apps like it. Its moral stance hinges on how much autonomy you think adults should be afforded. From Coca-Cola to Harley-Davidson to Caesar’s Palace, society has allowed businesses to profit off questionably safe products that some enjoy.

For better and worse, Proveit is one of the most exciting mobile games I’ve ever played.

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Getting off opioids with medical marijuana: Patients turn to pot over pills

(CNN)In 2016, opioids killed more Americans than breast cancer. The drug overdose epidemic has become one of the most concerning public health issues of recent time, and in an effort to stem the tide, moreg and more patients and doctors are turning to pot over pills.

Watch Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special Report “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills” on Sunday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET.
For much of the past two decades, 51-year-old Angie Slinkertook a cocktail of narcotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to manage the pain stemming from a car accident in 1998. She had between 50 and 60 surgeries, but her pain persisted, and doctors kept giving her more pills.
“It was just a vicious cycle,” she told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “You started taking something for pain, and before you knew it, you were into another surgery. Which brought on anxiety.” To treat the anxiety, doctors prescribed more pills. And when she felt depressed, they added even more medications.
    All the drugs left in her a fog. She spent most of her days in bed. When Slinker woke up, she was in pain and looking for immediate relief.
    By 2012, she was taking up to 25 pills a day. She weighed close to 350 pounds, and she didn’t want to move, because the medications sapped whatever will or desire she had. “I can’t do this anymore. It is killing me from the inside out,” she told her doctors.
    And so she stopped cold turkey.
    The withdrawal symptoms were severe. Slinker said she was moody and irritable from the pounding headaches and constant nausea. Without any medications, her hands began to spasm and freeze.
    Her then 22 year-old sonsuggested cannabis. The relief was quick. “I realized immediately that there are medicinal properties within cannabis,” she said.
    It didn’t completely eliminate her pain, but pot allowed her to live again, she says. She was able to play with her granddaughter and participate in life. “I’m never going to be pain-free, ever. But cannabis has given me a reason to live,” Slinker said.
    But it is also illegal in her home state of Indiana. “I could have bought cannabis off the street. But that was not me. I wanted to do it the right way. I wanted to do it legally,” she said. So in July 2012, Slinker moved to Maine.

    Treating patients with weed

    Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999. The state has one of the top ten highest rates of opioid overdose in the country. In 2016, the rate of overdoses from opioid drugs in Maine was nearly double the national rate. The number of heroin related deaths has jumped more than fourfold since 2012.

      This is your brain on pain

    For a state deeply embedded in the opioid crisis, Dustin Sulak believes that medical marijuana could be part of a solution. “There’s no pill, there’s no spray, no drop, no puff [that] can completely solve this problem,” Sulak told Gupta. “But cannabis, when it’s used in the right way, can take a big bite out of it.”
    Sulak is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. He says he has treated hundreds of people with marijuana to wean them off opioid painkillers. He runs two outpatient clinics in Maine and started looking to marijuana as a potential solution when he noticed that a number of his patients were able to sustain their opioid dosages for years, never asking for more.
    Production of natural opioids is triggered when the body experiences pain. But opioid medications can act as a signal to the body to stop producing endorphins; it instead becomes more and more reliant on the drugs. When the person takes more opioids, that increases the risk for overdose.
    Sulak was curious as to why some of his patients didn’t need to increase their opioid doses, so he asked them what was different. “The answer was that they were using opioids in combination with cannabis. And they felt that it made the opioids stronger.”
    Sulak’s review of the medical literature resulted in the same conclusion. He points out that when opioids are used in combination with cannabis in animals, marijuana can boost an opioid’s effectiveness without requiring higher dosages.
    Slinker is now a patient of Sulak’s integrative health practice. Instead of taking 25 pills a day, she supplements smoking a gram of marijuana every three or four weeks with marijuana tinctures, oils and vapor. She also uses a drug called naltrexone to help with her autoimmune-related issues.
    She credits her life now to cannabis and wants others to know about it. “I want people to know that they have options. Do not be afraid to tell your doctor that you do not want these chemicals in your body,” she said.

    ‘I don’t think I would be alive today if I didn’t have it’

    Doug Campbell, another patient of Sulak’s, agrees that cannabis is a real alternative. “I don’t think I would be alive today if I didn’t have it,” he said.
    Like Slinker, Campbell said he started off using narcotics to manage pain. He was 18 years-old when he fell off a roof and fractured three vertebrae in his lower back. But it wasn’t until he started getting involved in a more party lifestyle that opioids became more than just therapy.
    After 32 times in and out of rehabilitation, he finally found a way to stop using opioids. “I have no cravings. I have no desire. I do not have any thought about it at all,” he told Gupta.
    Dr. Mark Wallace, a pain management specialist and head of the University of California, San Diego Health’s Center for Pain Medicine, is seeing similar results in his patients. Wallace began investigating cannabis in 1999, when he received a grant from the state of California. He looked at the literature and realized that pot had a long history of therapeutic use for many disorders including leprosy, epilepsy and pain.
    Within a decade, there were enough studies to convince him that marijuana was a real alternative to use in his practice. He estimates that hundreds of his patients, like Marc Schechter, have been weaned off pills through pot.

    40,000 pills over 10 years

    In the past 10 years, Schechter estimates, he took almost 40,000 opioid pills, all prescribed to him by his doctors. Percocet, fentanyl and OxyContin — they all worked, but when the dosage wore off, he needed more.
    Schechter had a rare condition that flared up while he was playing golf in 2007. At the 17th hole, pain began radiating from his back. By the time he got back to his room, he couldn’t move his left leg at all.
    Schechter was diagnosed with idiopathic transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine. He was eventually able to walk again, but the pain persisted.
    Without the drugs, it felt like his leg was burning with pins and needles, as if it had fallen asleep. “It’s like that 24/7. Not a second of relief,” he said. He needed the drugs just to live.
    “Were you addicted to them?” Gupta asked.
    “Physically, yeah,” Schechter said.
    The drugs never interfered with his work as an attorney, but Schechter kept needing more and more of them. He started to question their effectiveness. Schechter told his neurologist, “I really am starting to doubt whether this is even having any effect because I’m in so much neuropathic pain.”
    His neurologist had heard of Wallace’s work and referred Schechter to the clinic. The first night Schechter used marijuana, he took a puff or two from a vaporizer. “Within a minute, I had immediate pain relief. … [The pain level] was so tolerable that I was, like, in heaven.”

    ‘We need objective data’

    Patients and doctors across the country have told similar stories. But Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said anecdotes are not enough.
    “We cannot be guided by wishful thinking. We need objective data,” she told Gupta.

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

    And a growing number of doctors and researchers like Wallace and Sulak are ready to provide those data. They say federal regulations are standing in the way of getting people the help they need.
    According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical use and a high potential for abuse.
    “We have enough evidence now that it should be rescheduled,” Wallace said.
    Sulak wonders, “When will the medical community catch up with what their patient populations are doing?”

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    Type Of Synthetic Pot Linked To Severe Bleeding From The Eyes, Ears, Nose And Mouth

    The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is currently reporting that, since early March, 38 people have been bleeding from various orifices and soft tissues after using a form of synthetic cannabinoids. One person has died.

    According to the IDPH, the subjects are suffering from severe bleeding from their nose, eyes, ears, and gums, as well as experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, and the ejection of bloody remnants through vomiting, coughing, defecating, and urination.

    The majority of these cases have cropped up in Tazewell County (12), with Chicago (10) coming in second, as of March 30. Individuals have reported using a range of synthetic cannabinoid products, including K2, a notorious synthetic whose detrimental health effects have made headlines around the world.

    Back in 2016, 33 people in Brooklyn died of a suspected overdose of K2. Despite being banned in 2014, K2 is still easily obtainable in New Zealand, and as of 2017, people were still dying after using it.

    In this latest case, it’s not clear what specific ingredient – or indeed brand of synthetic cannabinoid – is causing the excessive bleeding, but authorities are looking into it.

    According to the Chicago Tribune, however, three people hospitalized after using the substance have tested positive for brodifacoum, which is more commonly known as rat poison. This triggers the body to stop using Vitamin K, which assists in the coagulation and clotting of blood, which could explain the severe bleeding.

    According to a 2017 review of K2’s synthetic cannabinoids, they are known to “produce a variety of dangerous acute and chronic adverse effects, including psychosis, seizures, tolerance, dependence, and death.” The CDC notes that “people who smoke these products can react with rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.”

    Bleeding doesn’t appear to be mentioned in the literature, which suggests this is a new side effect, one that’s currently specific to this Illinois variant.

    Hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids currently exist, and each year, new ones become available. They’re sold and distributed in numerous ways, with plenty being sold as packages of leaf-like material and others being vaporized, sprayed onto plant material and then smoked.

    As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these drugs replicate the feeling of using the real deal because they act on the same brain cell receptors as cannabis’ tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) using different compounds. Unlike bona fide marijuana, however – whose availability, legality and common forms also vary all over the world – research into the health effects of synthetic cannabinoids is, at present, far less comprehensive.

    Depending on where you are, synthetics aren’t necessarily banned, although plenty are. In some parts of the US, general categories of ingredients relating to synthetics, rather than specific chemicals, are outlawed. In fact, part of their popularity stems from the fact that they are not necessarily banned in certain places, or they’re perceived to be legal – or even safe – by those that use them.

    The IDPH noted that such synthetics “are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug,” before stressing that “they are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana.

    “Their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.”

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    Are non-drinkers more likely to get dementia?

    (CNN)According to a major new study in the British Medical Journal, people who drink heavily are more likely to get dementia. That’s not surprising — we know that excessive alcohol use is linked to lots of diseases. But what might surprise you is that people who don’t drink at all are also more likely to get dementia.

    Considerably so, in fact. The study — which took 9,000 British people between the ages of 35 and 55 in the mid-1980s and followed them for 30 years — found that people who didn’t drink at all for a period of 10 years or more were almost 50% more likely to develop dementia in later life than people who drank a moderate amount.
    People who drank excessively — more than the recommended 14 units a week — were also at higher risk.
      This finding is called a “J-shaped curve,” because the risk dips at first, as you drink more, and then starts to climb again, in the shape of a J, or a tick.
      Earlier studies have found the same thing, and it’s actually been seen in other conditions. Heart disease, strokes and diabetes all show a similar pattern (if you don’t drink, you’re at higher risk; if you drink a bit, it drops, and then it climbs again). So does overall mortality, your risk of dying in a given period.
      What this doesn’t mean, though, is that if you don’t drink, you ought to start drinking for the sake of your future brain.
      For one thing, while a 50% increased risk sounds bad, it’s worth putting into context.
      Only about 400 of the study’s participants — a bit less than 5% — actually developed dementia. Of the 1,300 long-term abstainers, 98 people (7.5%) developed dementia. The risk is indeed 50% higher, but 150% of a small number is still fairly small.

        How alcohol affects your health

      Second, it’s far from clear that abstaining from alcohol actually causes the dementia — or, more accurately, it’s not clear that alcohol has a protective effect. That’s because, in British society at least, people who don’t drink at all are quite unusual.
      You can see that in the study. People in the “abstainers” group are more likely to be non-white, less likely to have higher educational certificates, more likely to live alone.
      Those groups may be more prone to dementia naturally. The study tries to account for those differences with statistical methods, but that’s tricky. “Although the model they use tries to take account of these differences,” says Dr Suzi Gage, a psychologist and epidemiologist at the University of Liverpool. But you can never be sure “first that all the differences are included, and second that the measures you’re using capture all those differences.”
      For instance, she says, the reason some people don’t drink is because they have been told not to by their GP, for health reasons. “It’s one of the first things doctors tell you,” she says, if you’ve been diagnosed with heart problems.
      If you’ve got lots of people who have underlying health conditions in the abstainers group, it wouldn’t be surprising if they tended to get dementia (and stroke, and heart disease) more often. Some heavy drinkers become abstainers, too.
      The study’s authors are aware of all these limitations, and were careful not to say that alcohol protects against dementia, although they do think it might. It’s not clear exactly how that might work, biologically — the study suggests some possibilities, but, Dr Gage warns, “you can come up with plausible mechanisms for almost any finding”. “It could be that a small amount of alcohol is protective,” she says. “But I’m not convinced.” Other scientists think there is a protective effect, but it is an ongoing debate, and it seems unlikely that it is as big as the 50% increase in risk that we talked about earlier.
      At the moment, the advice for British people is to drink less than 14 units — about seven pints of beer or glasses of wine — a week, spread over several days. This study supports that advice. But, as it says itself, it shouldn’t “motivate people who do not drink to start drinking, given the known detrimental effects of alcohol consumption.”
      Starting to drink for the benefit of your health is probably still a bad idea.

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      Mum wants to treat epileptic son at home

      Media playback is unsupported on your device
      Media captionCharlotte Caldwell said the medication ordeal had been ‘horrific and cruel’

      The mum of a boy with severe epilepsy who had cannabis oil medication confiscated wants to meet the home secretary to discuss reforming the law.

      Charlotte Caldwell’s son Billy, 12, uses the oil as his anti-seizure medication and she wants to be able to treat him with it at home.

      The Home Office has granted a limited licence for the drug to be administered to the child in hospital for 20 days.

      Billy is being treated at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

      Ms Caldwell says her son’s seizures dramatically reduce when he takes the oil, which contains a substance called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is illegal in the UK.

      On Monday Heathrow airport officials confiscated Billy’s supply – which Ms Caldwell had tried to bring in from Canada – and he was admitted to hospital after his seizures “intensified”.

      Home Secretary Sajid Javid later approved the use of cannabis oil after doctors made clear it was a medical emergency. The situation is under review.

      Ms Caldwell, from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, wants to meet Mr Javid to discuss the matter and said: “I will not stand by and let any other family in our country endure this experience. It’s horrific and cruel.”

      Crispin Blunt MP, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform, said the existing law was “frankly absurd”.

      Media playback is unsupported on your device
      Media captionTake a look inside the world’s largest legal cannabis farm in Canada

      Dr Amir Englund, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said an exemption should be made in Billy’s case “so that he does not come to further harm”.

      But UCL’s Dr Michael Bloomfield said the use of medical marijuana is “far from straightforward”. He said in some jurisdictions the drug’s use for medical conditions is “a potential way of decriminalising cannabis through the back door”.

      The Home Office’s initial decision, and then its reversal, prompted calls for drug law reform from MPs on all sides.

      Image caption Billy was admitted to hospital in London on Friday

      Mr Blunt, a Conservative, said the existing law was based on an “outdated” claim that cannabis had no medicinal value.

      “We need to get serious now about getting the benefits of these medicines, and move to change the frankly absurd position we are in,” he said.

      Ex-Tory health minister Dan Poulter said the current situation was “ridiculous” and pledged to push for a change in the law.

      He said: “I genuinely don’t understand why we see… medicinal cannabis through the prism of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs legislation, when actually this is a medical issue, it’s not a prohibition of drugs issue, and that’s what’s got to change.”

      In 2017, Billy was prescribed the medication on the NHS but last month his GP was told he could no longer prescribe it.

      At the time the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said cannabis had not yet been licensed in the UK as a medicine.

      Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

      CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.

      A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.

      Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.

      MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.

      Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

      Source: NHS Choices

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      Joint effort: cannabis lobby heads to Washington to woo US lawmakers

      Industry leaders descended on the capital this week amid hopes the country at large is slowly embracing legalization

      More than 200 cannabis industry leaders descended upon Washington this week in the hopes of persuading the US Congress to embrace the growing movement for marijuana legalization.

      The marijuana business owners and advocates bustled between the hallways of the House and Senate, meeting with hundreds of congressional offices and rallying on the Capitol lawn over a three-day lobbying tour organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association.

      The event, which brought members representing 23 states and the District of Columbia, was not the first of its kind. But the advocates hailed a new front in the battle for federal marijuana reform against the backdrop of a rapid evolution on how the issue is perceived in the nations capital.

      Theres an air of legitimacy around our group that makes me hopeful that the stigma is going to fall away, said Blake Mensing, a cannabis attorney from Massachusetts who helps clients obtain local permits and state licenses for adult use cannabis businesses.

      With public opinion polls showing record support among Americans for marijuana legalization, its little surprise that the high has spread to Congress.

      Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have taken a flurry of actions in recent months that signal the shifting tides.

      Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, fast-tracked a bill in April that would legalize industrial hemp. The historical ban on hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, has long imposed barriers on the agriculture industry.

      McConnell found an ally in his daily sparring partner Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, who announced his support for the proposal this month.

      The marijuana industrys efforts include pushing for legislation that would grant legal marijuana businesses access to financial services, among other measures to prevent the federal government from prosecuting businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

      The states have already proven that replacing the criminal marijuana markets with tightly regulated and transparent small businesses is working, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). Now the responsibility falls on Congress to reform federal laws so that the legal cannabis industry can be treated fairly, like any other legitimate business sector.

      The National Cannabis Industry Association points to economic benefits for states which tax and regulate marijuana. Photograph: Mark Leffingwell/Reuters

      To further its case, the NCIA released a report highlighting economic benefits in the five states Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington that taxed and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana in 2017.

      Those states collected more than $790m in state tax revenue that year, the report found, with tax revenue reaching $247m in Colorado alone. The analysis also cited a 445% increase in the number of marijuana industry job postings in 2017, according to the job placement firm ZipRecruiter, compared with an increase of 18% the year before.

      Even longtime foes of marijuana legalization efforts have joined the bandwagon.

      Last month the former House speaker John Boehner sent shockwaves through Washington by joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 US states. The move marked a stunning reversal for the Ohio Republican, who once said he was unalterably opposed to decriminalizing marijuana.

      In a statement provided to the Guardian, Boehner said there were a number of issues that had prompted the change. My thinking, like that of millions of other Americans, has evolved as Ive learned more about the issue, he said, pointing to the use of medical marijuana to treat patients of opioid addiction and the countrys veterans.

      Descheduling the drug, Boehner added, will reduce the conflict between federal policy and state programs.

      Even Donald Trumps administration has shown signs of easing its proposed crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana.

      The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded an Obama-era policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, raising alarms of a forthcoming federal crackdown.

      The move prompted Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, to block all of Trumps nominees to the justice department in a bid to compel the administration to reverse course. Last month, the president agreed his administration would not target the marijuana industry in Gardners home state, ending a three-month standoff.

      Sessions even acknowledged the potential for some benefits from medical marijuana in a recent Senate hearing.

      Charles Smith, a New York attorney and cannabis regulatory and compliance consultant, said the Trump administration had largely maintained the status quo on the drug.

      The rescinding of the [Obama-era] guidance did cause a chilling effect, he added. There were deals lost, there were investors that backed out.

      But we havent seen it on the ground where theyre carrying out enforcement actions, despite what the attorney general has said.

      Some critics nonetheless view the evolution of Boehner and other former proponents of so-called tough-on-crime policies as cashing in on what is now a burgeoning industry.

      Shanita Penny, president of the board of directors at the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said: Its not enough to just participate in this industry from a stance of wanting to make money.

      Penny reiterated a similar message to lawmakers this week as she implored action on criminal justice reform.

      Pennys group is focused on removing barriers that prohibit those with previous marijuana convictions from participating in the industry as a patient, employee or operator. Among the most pressing issues, from their vantage point, is reinvesting in the communities that have been disproportionately affected by the mandatory sentencing laws of years past.

      You have to be willing to look at the harm that was done to communities that were over-policed, that were over-sentenced, that was destroyed because of the war on drugs and be ready to do some of the work to heal, Penny said.

      We need the industry to start thinking about social responsibility and not let this be something that we address in hindsight.

      • This article was amended on 24 May 2018 to correct Shanita Pennys name and to remove a reference to pins marijuana business owners and advocates wore.

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      What’s coming to (and going from) Netflix in May

      Spring can be a blessed time for the entertainment fan’s TV and movie backlog. Sure, you can catch new stuff at the movies or go outside or whatever, but we say let’s treat spring like any other season and relish it as an opportunity to bond with Netflix. Dear White People returns at the beginning of the month, as do several CW shows that just ended their on-air seasons. And come Memorial Day Weekend, there’s a perfect family film waiting for you.

      Here’s what’s coming to Netflix in May.

      Top pick: Coco

      If you made the egregious mistake of missing Disney and Pixar’s breathtaking family film in theaters, your redemption is at hand. You may choose to watch on a mobile device, but for the full effect, we recommend watching on the biggest screen possible to take in the stunning visuals of Miguel’s (Anthony Gonzalez) heartwarming journey.


      27: Gone Too Soon (5/1)
      The 40-Year-Old Virgin (5/16)
      89 (5/16)
      A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana (5/1)
      Amelie (5/1)
      Anon (5/4)
      Beautiful Girls (5/1)
      Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (5/31)
      The Bourne Ultimatum (5/1)
      Bridge to Terabithia (5/19)
      Cargo (5/18)
      The Carter Effect (5/1)
      Catching Feelings (5/18)
      The Clapper (5/1)
      Disney·Pixar’s Coco (5/29)
      Darc (5/1)
      Desolation (5/8)
      Dirty Girl (5/9)
      End Game (5/4)
      Evil Genius: the True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (5/11)
      Explained  (5/23)
      Faces Places (5/5)
      Forgive Us Our Debts (5/4)
      God’s Own Country (5/1)
      Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (5/1)
      Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (5/1)
      Hellboy II: The Golden Army (5/1)
      High School Musical 3: Senior Year (5/1)
      Ibiza (5/25)
      Jailbreak (5/2)
      The Kingdom (5/16)
      The Kissing Booth (5/11)
      A Little Help with Carol Burnett (5/4)
      Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo (5/4)
      Mamma Mia! (5/16)
      Manhunt (5/4)
      Mr. Woodcock (5/1)
      My Perfect Romance (5/1)
      No Estoy Loca (5/4)
      Only God Forgives (5/15)
      The Phantom of the Opera (5/14)
      Pocoyo & Cars (5/1)
      Pocoyo & The Space Circus (5/1)
      The Reaping (5/1)
      Reasonable Doubt (5/1)
      Red Dragon (5/1)
      Sara’s Notebook  (5/26)
      Scream 2 (5/1)
      Shrek (5/1)
      Sliding Doors (5/1)
      Small Town Crime (5/19)
      Some Kind of Beautiful (5/20)
      Sometimes (5/1)
      The Strange Name Movie (5/1)
      Survivors Guide to Prison (5/24)
      Wanted (5/16)


      Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (5/13)
      Arrow: Season 6
      Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1 (5/1)
      Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3 (5/11)
      The Break with Michelle Wolf (5/27)
      Busted!: Season 1 (5/4)
      Dear White People: Volume 2 (5/4)
      Dynasty: Season 1
      Fauda: Season 2 (5/24)
      The Flash: Season 4
      The Game 365: Seasons 15 – 16 (5/15)
      Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: Season 4 (5/15)
      Grand Designs: Seasons 13 – 14 (5/15)
      Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives (5/8)
      Inspector Gadget: Season 4 (5/18)
      The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale (Streaming every Sunday until May 13) (5/6 – 5/13)
      John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City (5/1)
      Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2 (5/4)
      Mob Psycho 100: Season 1 (5/22)
      My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey (5/4)
      My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern  (5/31)
      Queens of Comedy: Season 1 (5/1)
      The Rain: Season 1 (5/4)
      Riverdale: Season 2
      Disney’s Scandal: Season 7 (5/19)
      Señora Acero: Season 4 (5/21)
      Shooter: Season 2 (5/22)
      Simon: Season 1 (5/1)
      Spirit Riding Free: Season 5 (5/11)
      Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life (5/25)
      Supernatural: Season 1
      Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2 (5/22)
      Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here (5/22)
      The Toys That Made Us: Season 2 (5/25)
      Trollhunters: Part 3 (5/25)
      Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4 (5/30)
      The Who Was? Show: Season 1 (5/11)
      Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2 (5/1)


      Bridget Jones’s Diary
      Charlotte’s Web
      Field of Dreams
      Ocean’s Eleven
      Silent Hill
      The Exorcism of Emily Rose
      The Hurt Locker
      To Rome With Love
      To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
      12 Dates of Christmas
      Beauty & the Briefcase
      Cadet Kelly
      Camp Rock
      Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
      Cow Belles
      Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
      Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
      Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
      Geek Charming
      Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
      Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
      High School Musical
      High School Musical 2
      Jump In!
      Lemonade Mouth
      Little Einsteins:
      Seasons 1 – 2
      My Fake Fiancé
      Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
      Phineas and Ferb:
      Seasons 1 – 4
      Princess Protection Program
      Princess: A Modern Fairytale
      Read It and Weep
      Revenge of the Bridesmaids
      Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
      Special Agent Oso:
      Seasons 1 – 2
      Teen Spirit
      The Secret Life of the American Teenager:
      Seasons 1 – 5
      Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
      Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
      The Host
      Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
      Disney’s The Jungle Book

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      Lots of Doctors Recommend Weed Without Understanding It

      If you go to a doctor and ask them to recommend you medical marijuana, don’t expect them to fully understand how the drug works, both for you as an individual patient and in general as a therapy. Because no one really does.

      With more and more states legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, cannabis is shedding its stigma and entering the mainstream. That means folks who’ve shied away from the stuff are getting better access, and exploring cannabis as a non-addictive treatment for ailments like pain. But that new interest is running smack dab into a big problem plaguing medical cannabis: The research on what marijuana can actually treat, what components of the plant matter, and how different patients respond to them, is severely lacking.

      Just how much doctors are struggling with it becomes clear today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. A study reveals that half of surveyed oncologists say they recommended marijuana to patients in the last year. But half of those didn’t think they actually had sufficient knowledge to make those recommendations.

      The biggest question for oncologists is what cancer symptoms cannabis can really treat. The survey found respondents split when it comes to the treatment of pain: A third of oncologists said cannabis is equally or more effective than standard pain treatments, a third said it was less effective, and a third didn’t know. “But there seemed to be clear consensus that medical marijuana is a good adjunct to standard pain treatment, so a good add-on medication,” says Ilana Braun, lead author and chief of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said it’d be a good supplemental treatment.

      According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—which last year published a massive, big-deal review of cannabis research—“there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” It’s also been shown to help control nausea and vomiting.

      Now, doctors have long prescribed a synthetic THC called dronabinol, aka marinol, for the treatment of nausea and weight loss. Problem is, side effects include paranoia and “thinking abnormal.” Beyond that, you wouldn’t want to try to get high on it because it’s missing the galaxy of other active compounds in cannabis. “If it worked—it rarely does work—but if it really did work it would be abused on the streets,” says physician Allan Frankel, a pioneer in medical cannabis. “For 15 cents a pill? That's how bad marinol is.”

      The reason, Frankel says, is the so-called entourage effect, the interaction of dozens of other cannabinoids in marijuana like CBD (which is an extremely effective treatment for seizures, by the way) that may produce different therapeutic effects. So by that logic, with marinol, patients aren’t getting the full effect of the cannabis plant.

      And that full effect would be? Well, nobody really knows—in part because the US government makes the stuff very, very difficult to study. In the eyes of the feds, it’s still a very illegal schedule I drug, the most tightly controlled category, and the DEA decides who gets crop to research. Researchers don’t have access to a variety of strains that might produce a variety of benefits, given different levels of CBD and THC and other compounds.

      Even if you could study lots of different strains, it’s not always possible to tell what a patient is going to get at the dispensary. Flowers can be mislabeled, and the THC content of oils doesn’t always match what’s on the label. “Composition standardization is a giant mess,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that tests cannabis. “So for an ultra traditional doctor, I can understand where they're like, Man, we don't really know what that is, is that OK? It's not standardized like a pharmaceutical product.”

      A doctor can’t just say, Take two marijuana pills and call me in the morning. And on a physiological level, we all handle cannabis differently. “Even if I tell everybody, go inhale a tenth of a gram, their inhalation depths and absorption rates are going to be different,” says Raber.

      “Unfortunately, we are going a little bit blind,” says physician Bonni Goldstein, medical director of the Canna-Centers, which provides cannabis consultations for patients. “But what I'm finding in clinical experience is I learn from every patient, and so we try to use the scientific research that we do have.”

      So doctors like Goldstein try to tailor cannabis as best they can for a patient’s needs. Her patients have the luxury of attentive, personalized cannabis consultations. “Someone retired who has cancer who doesn't have to get up in the morning and get somewhere may be able to take bigger doses during the day,” says Goldstein, “versus a mom of four who has kids in and out of activities, who has breast cancer.”

      But your typical oncologist isn’t going to sit down with a patient for an hour to walk through their lifestyle and needs. So patients are left to experiment with dosages on their own, or consult with their local dispensary.

      Because it turns out that dispensaries have some experience dosing cannabis. “Some of the top dispensaries that have been doing this for a while know this better than anybody else,” says Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve Digital Health, which makes a smart inhaler for medical marijuana patients. “There's still so much about the pharmacokinetics of this plant that we just don't know yet. So asking a doctor to come in to try to solve the problem without any more data than the dispensary has is hard.”

      What Adelson sees cannabis promoting is a new paradigm of medical care. “We've heard this from many doctors, that they might not know about medical cannabis, might not want to promote it, and that a patient comes in and says, ‘I'd like to try it,’” he says. “And patients bring studies with them." That inversion of responsibility has its downsides: An elderly patient might not be aware of side effects like dizziness, for example. But at the same time, it's impossible to overdose. For better or worse, if doctors don't feel they have the knowledge to appropriately prescribe a drug, patients will fill that void.

      More cannabis science

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      John Boehner, who helped send drug dealers to prison, to lobby for marijuana

      "My thinking/the profits on this matter have evolved."
      Image: chip somodevilla/Getty Images

      Now that he’s retired from Congress, former House Speaker John Boehner has decided to channel his inner flip-flopper and lobby for legalized weed. 

      Boehner announced his decision Wednesday to join the board of Acreage Holdings, “an investment company with an established footprint in the cannabis industry in the United States.” 

      “My thinking on cannabis has evolved,” Boehner said, sans winking emoji, in a tweet.

      Boehner said he’d be lobbying to de-schedule the drug so we can “do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic.”

      The former speaker’s decision comes at a time of soaring profits for the legalized cannabis industry, with $10 billion in sales recorded in 2017.

      In 2011, John Boehner said he was “unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.” He added, “I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”

      In fact, the former speaker spent much of his legislative career making life harder for drug users and instituting harsh penalties for drug sellers. In 1999, he voted to prohibit needle exchange and medical marijuana in D.C. — services that, arguably, help the the most vulnerable victims of the drug trade. In 2007, he voted against expanding services for ex-offenders leaving prison and re-entering public life. In 1999, he voted for a bill that allowed juveniles to be tried as adults for serious drug offenses.

      Towards the end of his career in Congress, Boehner did signal an openness to getting people out of prison who “don’t really need to be there,” including non-violent drug offenders. The bill was never passed, and shortly thereafter, Boehner left Congress.

      I wonder if Boehner’s thoughts on all of the drug bills he signed have also “evolved.”

      My hunch is a giant “Nah.” 

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      Medical marijuana push spreads to Utah, Oklahoma

      The push for legalized marijuana has moved into Utah and Oklahoma, two of the most conservative states in the country, further underscoring how quickly feelings about marijuana are changing in the United States.

      If the two measures pass, Utah and Oklahoma will join 30 other states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to the pro-pot National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. Nine of those states and Washington, D.C. also have broad legalization where adults 21 and older can use pot for any reason. Michigan could become the 10th state with its ballot initiative this year.

      Utah and Oklahoma already are among 16 states that allow for use an oil called cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound from cannabis that doesn’t get users high but can treat a range of health concerns.

      Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, is confident the Utah and Oklahoma measures will pass.

      “America’s appetite for cannabis is not going away,” Strekal said. “We are in the death rattles of prohibition.”

      Marijuana legalization efforts have faced some pushback from religions before — including in 2016 in Arizona and Nevada from the Mormon church, and the same year from the Catholic Church in Massachusetts. But not to the scale they could face this year in Utah, where Mormons account for about two-third of the population, said Matthew Schweich, executive director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

      Mormons have long frowned upon marijuana use because of a key church health code called the “Word of Wisdom,” which prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out against the proposal this month, saying in a statement drugs designed to ease suffering should be tested and approved by government officials first. The church said it respects the “wise counsel” of doctors, and commended the Utah Medical Association for opposing it. The association has accused organizers of trying to disguise their intention of simply paving the way for legalizing recreational marijuana.

      Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told middle school students in January that he thinks medical marijuana will someday be legalized in the state but in March he announced his opposition to the ballot question, which he argues lacks safeguards for the growing and distribution of marijuana.

      Advocates remain confident that they’ve crafted a medical marijuana measure that respects the Mormon church and culture while providing much-needed relief for people with chronic pain, Schweich said. His Washington, D.C.-based organization helped draft the measure.

      Unlike other medical marijuana states, Utah’s proposal would not allow pot smoking or for residents to grow their own, Schweich said. It would create a state-regulated growing and dispensing operation to allow people with certain medical conditions to get a card and use the drug in edible forms like candy, in topical forms like lotions or balms, as an oil or in electronic cigarettes. Proponents turned in the signatures Monday to get the measure on the ballot in November.

      “It’s a question of compassion,” Schweich said.

      Oklahoma will vote in June on its proposal that would allow doctors to recommend that patients receive a medical marijuana license allowing them to legally possess up to three ounces of the drug, six mature plants and six seedlings.

      Ted Lyon, a 78-year-old Mormon, is a supporter because he saw in the past decade how medical marijuana helped two of his neighbors in Provo — one with multiple sclerosis and another who has seizures. He said he wouldn’t support the drug’s legalization for recreational use.

      Lyon, a retired professor at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, said he’s afraid the church’s opposition will have a chilling effect on members of the faith but said he remains hopeful there are enough progressive-leaning Mormons who will see the benefits.

      “In 10 years, the church may say something different,” Lyon said. “This is not an eternal banishment of medical marijuana. My father was a good historian, and he used to say, ‘If you don’t like something in the church, just wait a while because it will change.'”

      Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck.

      Frodsham wasn’t discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn’t go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion’s health code doesn’t single out cannabis as being prohibited.

      “I think there’s some room for interpretation on this,” said Frodsham.

      The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn’t against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn’t include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group’s CEO.

      “We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state,” McOmber said. “This is an addictive drug.”


      Associated Press writer Adam Causey in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.


      Find complete AP marijuana coverage here:

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