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Medical Marijuana

Thousands get medical marijuana cards, despite legal tangle

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Fri, July, 15th 2011 by THCFinder
More than 7,500 Arizonans had been approved for personal medical marijuana licenses as of Wednesday, despite a well-publicized court battle that has delayed implementation of other parts of the law.
 
The court fight between the state and federal governments has temporarily halted approval of marijuana dispensaries but not personal licenses, which had been granted to 7,570 individuals and 270 caregivers by this week. The Arizona Department of Health Services could not say how many of the caregivers, if any, also had patient licenses.
 
Only seven patient applications have been denied so far and 93 percent of applications for caregivers — who help patients administer their medical marijuana — have been approved.
 
Three-quarters of approved patients are men and about 60 percent are older than 41. But the department said two minors have also had applications approved. The vast majority of applicants cited chronic pain as the reason they needed medical marijuana.
 
Close to 80 percent of applicants have asked for approval to grow their own marijuana, which is allowed under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act for anyone who does not live within 25 miles of a dispensary. Individuals approved to grow their own can legally maintain up to 12 plants in their homes and caregivers can grow for up to five patients at a time.
 
Those numbers have even some medical marijuana activists concerned about quality control and safety issues surrounding home-grown marijuana in residential areas.
 
The state in May stopped processing dispensary applications after concerns were raised that state employees might face federal prosecution for assisting in marijuana distribution. The state sued the Justice Department on May 27 seeking clarification of the federal government’s position before proceeding on the dispensary applications.
 
The Justice Department issued a memo in June that was supposed to give guidance to states with medical marijuana laws, but Gov. Jan Brewer said it offered “little more than continued confusion and doublespeak.”
 
“If this memo was an attempt at clarity, it failed,” she said.
 
The delay in dispensary decisions has sparked other lawsuits by groups trying to force the state to begin processing applications. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion last week asking a federal judge to dismiss the suit brought by Brewer and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
 
“Arizona is in a very gray area because the law passed at an unfortuitous time when the federal government is unclear,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
 
If no dispensaries are approved in the state, every medical marijuana patient would theoretically be able to grow their own. Those who did not get that permission initially could pay $10 and apply to amend their license.
 
If a home-grown market sprouts up in Arizona, Dhar Mann is ready to cultivate it.
 

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States with medical marijuana see a decrease in pot smoking by teens

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Thu, July, 14th 2011 by THCFinder
When states debate medical marijuana laws, one of the issues sure to come up is whether legalizing marijuana for medical uses sends the wrong message to young people. Does legalizing medical marijuana create an atmosphere of permissiveness regarding marijuana? Does legalizing medical marijuana make it easier for kids to get their hands on dope?
 
Some of those questions are highly subjective and difficult to answer. One question, though stands out as being straightforward enough to actually study. That question is simply this: Are teenagers more likely to smoke marijuana after a state legalizes medical marijuana than they were before it was legalized in their state?
 
A study conducted by the Marijuana Policy Project in partnership with a psychology professor from the State University of New York has concluded that teen use of marijuana does not change much when a state legalizes marijuana. If anything, teenage use seems to go down.
 
In Colorado, the researchers noted that there is really isn’t enough data to reach hard conclusions, but the data they have shows that in 1999, 10.3 percent of 12-17-year-olds reported using marijuana within the month prior to the survey. In 2007-2008, 9.1 percent reported marijuana use in the same time frame. Colorado passed its medical marijuana law in 2000.
 
As of today, 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws. Of the 13 states studied, only two, Michigan and New Mexico, showed an increase in marijuana among teenagers after passage of the laws. As in Colorado, the change is small enough to be within the margin of error.
 
Nationwide, the study concluded that teenage marijuana use has gone down since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.
 
The study’s authors wrote that all of the data used in the study comes from surveys done by the federal government or the states themselves, so it is unlikely to be rigged by a pro-drug bias on the part of the surveyors.
 
From the study:
 
One argument consistently raised in opposition to such measures is that they “send the wrong message to young people” and encourage teen drug experimentation. For example, in an October 1996 letter to anti-drug advocates, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Thomas A. Constantine wrote, “How can we expect our children to reject drugs when some authorities are telling them that illegal drugs should no longer remain illegal, but should be used instead to help the sick? … We cannot afford to send ambivalent messages about drugs.”
 
Such arguments continue to be raised by opponents of medical marijuana laws. In June 2007, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) explained in her veto statement of a medical marijuana bill, “I am also concerned that this bill would send the wrong message to our youth.”
 
Similarly, U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told the Associated Press in September 2010, “I think all of the attention and the focus of calling marijuana medicine has sent the absolute wrong message to our
young people.”
 
The study concludes:
 
Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has witnessed a well-publicized and sometimes emotional national debate over the medical use of marijuana. Contrary to the fears expressed by opponents of medical marijuana laws, there is no evidence that the enactment of medical marijuana laws in 16 states and the District of Columbia have produced an increase in adolescent marijuana use in those states or nationwide. Instead, data from those states suggest a modest decline nationally and in medical marijuana states overall, with large declines in some age groups in some states. Only two of 13 states with operating medical marijuana programs have experienced an overall increase in youth marijuana use since passing a medical marijuana law, and both of those states have a modest amount of data since the programs are relatively new.
 
This data trend strongly suggests that the effect of state medical marijuana laws on teen marijuana use has been either neutral or positive. California researchers, who appear to be the only ones to specifically study the issue in the context of a survey of adolescent drug use, found no evidence of a “wrong message” effect. Legislators considering medical marijuana proposals should evaluate the bills on their own merits, without concern for unproven claims that such laws increase teen marijuana use. Opponents of medical marijuana laws should cease making such unsubstantiated claims.
 
 
 

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Challenging the DEA's War on Medical Marijuana

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Wed, July, 13th 2011 by THCFinder
The federal agency insists it has no legitimate use. So are all the cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis patients lying?
 
Can I interest you in a cross-country trip? Its theme is Anti-Empiricism in America. The tour bus leaves from The Bay Area, where a lot of people still think rent control works. It proceeds through Salt Lake City, where the Evergreen Institute claims to cure same sex attraction, passes through Petersburg, Ky., home of the Creationist Museum, and terminates in Springfield, Va., where the DEA, a liberty impinging branch of the federal government, insists against overwhelming evidence that a plant called marijuana "has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision." 
 
That dubious determination is what keeps marijuana classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the only kind that cannot be prescribed by physicians. It is more tightly controlled than raw opium, methadone, and anabolic steroids, among many other drugs far more harmful to the human body, and more prone to abuse than cannabis. 
 
Is that something the DEA can defend in court?
 
Americans For Safe Access (ASA) intends to find out. The advocacy group has spent years petitioning to change marijuana's designation so that doctors can prescribe it to patients. Last month, the DEA officially denied their request. In response, the group intends to sue. "The federal government is making no bones about its aggressive policy to undermine medical marijuana," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "And we're prepared to take the Obama administration to court over it."
 
Though most people don't know it, there is precedent for suing the federal government for access to medical marijuana and winning. On the verge of going blind in his early twenties, the late Robert C. Randall turned to marijuana after discovering that it relieved the symptoms of his glaucoma. It worked. In order to maintain a supply, he grew marijuana on his Washington D.C. sun deck. Police arrested him. "I argued that any sane person who knew they were going blind, who knew that marijuana would prevent them from going blind, would break the law to obtain marijuana," he recalled. Surprisingly, the courts agreed, and soon afterward, he began receiving marijuana legally from the federal government, a fact he publicized, resulting in the termination of his supply.
 
"They were willing to let me go blind to maintain the fiction that marijuana has no medical use," he said in the video above. He sued. Rather than go to court again, the federal government reached a settlement that required it to establish the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program. At its peak, 30 people were getting their marijuana legally from the federal government, the entity now claiming that the drug "has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision." George H.W. Bush ended the program, but as many as 5 patients are currently grandfathered in and still receiving marijuana. 
 

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Marijuana: DEA proposal, new Colorado law could lead to Big Pharma boom, attorney says

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Tue, July, 12th 2011 by THCFinder
Last month, we told you about a loophole in HB 1043, the medical marijuana cleanup bill, that could let Big Pharma firms get involved in the Colorado MMJ industry. Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration has made a new proposal involving marijuana extracts, and attorney Warren Edson sees it as further fueling a possible boom in the manufacture of such products here.
 
HB 1043 states that "a medical marijuana center may provide a sample of its products to a laboratory that has an occupational license from the state licensing authority for testing and research purposes. The laboratory may develop, test, and produce medical marijuana-based products." Because these labs only need an occupational license, not a license specific to the medical marijuana industry, Edson believes the restrictions placed on dispensaries -- including the rule disallowing out-of-state ownership -- wouldn't apply.
 
‚ÄčThe latest development? The DEA has proposed establishing a new code number for what it refers to as "Marihuana Extract." This code would be different from the one pertaining to marijuana itself, allowing the agency to track extract separately.
On the surface, this change seems merely technical. But Edson believes it has greater significance. According to him, "it sure looks like this would create a little niche, a little nook that would allow a pharmaceutical company to make products with marijuana extract in addition to what they usually do, without jeopardizing their big money drugs. And because of that little addition to 1043, the only place in the country where they could do that is right here."
 
At first blush, opening such a window to the medical industry seems hypocritical. After all, as Edson notes, "you've got the federal government simultaneously issuing this new proposal and, out of the other side of its mouth, saying marijuana has no medicinal value" by registering it as a Schedule 1 narcotic. But such contradictions aren't unknown in the medical biz. "The coca plant supposedly has no medical value, either," he points out, "but its extract gives us pharmaceutical cocaine, which helps people with narcolepsy. So the extract does have medical value."
 

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Judges snuffing out probationers medical marijuana

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, July, 11th 2011 by THCFinder
ADRIAN, Mich. —
Medical marijuana users who run afoul of the law are discovering probation is an antidote to their
certification cards.
 
An Adrian man was warned against applying for a medical marijuana card when he was placed on probation Thursday for a cocaine offense. Growing and using marijuana is still against federal law, said Lenawee County Circuit Judge Timothy P. Pickard. And the state medical use program does not seem to be restricting certification to the seriously ill.
 
“I don’t buy it,” Pickard said during the sentencing. “It seems to be an excuse for everybody to light up and smoke dope.”
 
Pickard, Lenawee County’s chief judge, said Friday the courts have no policy ruling out all use of medical marijuana for people on probation. But he has to be convinced there is a legitimate need, he said.
 
Regulations written by the state after a medical marijuana ballot proposal was passed by voters in 2008 do not require a prescription. Citizens can apply for certification cards with only a signed statement from a physician saying it may benefit their medical condition.
 
Probation terms can restrict otherwise legal behavior, Pickard said, such as drinking alcohol or associating with people having felony records. And it would be difficult to excuse violating federal law by growing and using marijuana while on probation.  
 
Pickard said he will still consider approving medical marijuana use for probationers whose convictions are not drug-related and who can show evidence of a serious medical condition that can be treated with marijuana.
 
If those conditions are met, “I’m fine with it,” Pickard said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case. I haven’t seen that yet.”
 

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Agency Lights Up Legal Battle By Declaring Pot Lacks Accepted Medical Use

Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, July, 11th 2011 by THCFinder
Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in 16 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government has ruled that cannabis has no accepted medical use and should remain classified, like heroin, as a highly dangerous drug.
 
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration issued its decision almost nine years after medical marijuana advocates asked the government to reclassify cannabis based on a growing body of research demonstrating its effectiveness in treating diseases such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
 
Supporters of medical marijuana recently asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to force the administration to respond to their petition. While critical of the DEA’s new ruling, they were delighted that they now have a decision they can appeal to the federal courts.
 
“We have foiled the government’s strategy of delay, and we can now go head-to-head on the merits,” said Joe Elford, the chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access and the lead attorney on the lawsuit.
 
However, similar legal efforts to permit the medical use of marijuana have failed twice before, after the federal government turned down petitions to reclassify the drug in 1972 and again in 1995.
 
Elford said he was not surprised by the DEA decision, which comes after the Obama administration announced it would not tolerate large-scale commercial marijuana cultivation. “It is clearly motivated by a political decision that is anti-marijuana,” he said. 
 
In a June 21 letter to the organizations that filed the latest petition, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said she rejected the request because marijuana has “a high potential for abuse” and lacks any “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” She added that  marijuana’s chemistry is not known and adequate studies have not been done on its usefulness or safety.
 
“At this time,” she said, “the known risks of marijuana use have not been outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
 
Nevertheless, researchers continue to identify medical benefits well beyond the drug’s often-cited capacity to stimulate the appetite of patients on chemotherapy.
 

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